TBL1 is required for the mesenchymal phenotype of transformed breast cancer cells.

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The epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and its reversion (MET) are related to tumor cell dissemination and migration, tumor circulating cell generation, cancer stem cells, chemoresistance, and metastasis formation. To identify chromatin and epigenetic factors possibly involved in the process of EMT, we compare the levels of expression of epigenetic genes in a transformed human breast epithelial cell line (HMEC-RAS) versus a stable clone of the same cell line expressing the EMT master regulator ZEB1 (HMEC-RAS-ZEB1). One of the factors strongly induced in the HMEC-RAS-ZEB1 cells was Transducin beta-like 1 (TBL1), a component of the NCoR complex, which has both corepressor and coactivator activities. We show that TBL1 interacts with ZEB1 and that both factors cooperate to repress the promoter of the epithelial gene E-cadherin (CDH1) and to autoactivate the ZEB1 promoter. Consistent with its central role, TBL1 is required for mesenchymal phenotypes of transformed breast epithelial and breast cancer cell lines of the claudin-low subtype. Importantly, a high expression of the TBL1 gene correlates with poor prognosis and increased proportion of metastasis in breast cancer patients, indicating that the level of TBL1 expression can be used as a prognostic marker.
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