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Increased invasion and matrix metalloproteinase-2 expression by Snail-induced mesenchymal transition in squamous cell carcinomas

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Loss of E-cadherin expression is a major characteristic of highly invasive and metastatic cancers. Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) has been advocated to be a causative mechanism for the suppression of E-cadherin and tumor progression. Snail is a zinc finger transcription factor that triggers the EMT and is one of the recently identified E-cadherin repressors. The reverse correlation of Snail and E-cadherin expressions has been reported in many types of human cancers including squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). In this study, we showed that three E-cadherin negative SCC cell lines had a fibroblastic morphology, strong expressions of vimentin, a mesenchymal marker gene, and Snail. Compared to other E-cadherin positive SCC cells, these cells showed higher invasive ability and expression of MMP-2, a matrix degrading enzyme which has been demonstrated to be highly expressed in invasive cancer cells. Over-expression of Snail in A431 cells resulted in the loss of E-cadherin expression, the change of their morphology to fibroblastic, and the up-regulation of vimentin gene expression, indicating that an EMT was induced by Snail. Furthermore, these cells became more invasive and showed higher levels of MMP-2 activity and its gene expression. Luciferase analysis demonstrated that the MMP-2 promoter activity was induced by Snail transfection and the promoter region from -262 to -411 relative to the transcriptional start site was necessary for this induction. These results indicate that Snail is a new inducer of MMP-2 expression and suggest that the EMT contributes to the increased invasion not only through the inhibition of cell-cell adhesion but also the up-regulation of MMP-2 expression in SCC cells.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: First Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, School of Dentistry, University of Tokushima, Tokushima, Japan

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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  • The International Journal of Oncology provides an international forum for the publication of the latest, cutting-edge research in the broad area of oncology and cancer treatment. The journal accepts original high quality works and reviews on all aspects of oncology research including carcinogenesis, metastasis, epidemiology, chemotherapy and viral oncology. Through fair and efficient peer review, the journal is dedicated to publishing top tier research in the field, offering authors rapid publication as well as high standards of copy-editing and production. The International Journal of Oncology is published on a monthly basis in both print and early online.
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