Polyomavirus enhancer activator 3 protein promotes breast cancer metastatic progression through Snail-induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition

Hiu-Fung Yuen, Yuen-Kwong Chan, Claire Grills, Cian M McCrudden, Vignesh Gunasekharan, Zhanzhong Shi, Ashley San-Yu Wong, Terence R Lappin, Kwok-Wah Chan, Dean A Fennell, Ui-Soon Khoo, Patrick G Johnston, Mohamed El-Tanani
Journal of Pathology 2011, 224 (1): 78-89
Polyomavirus enhancer activator 3 protein (Pea3), also known as ETV4, is a member of the Ets-transcription factor family, which promotes metastatic progression in various types of solid cancer. Pea3-driven epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) has been described in lung and ovarian cancers. The mechanisms of Pea3-induced EMT, however, are largely unknown. Here we show that Pea3 overexpression promotes EMT in human breast epithelial cells through transactivation of Snail (SNAI1), an activator of EMT. Pea3 binds to the human Snail promoter through the two proximal Pea3 binding sites and enhances Snail expression. In addition, knockdown of Pea3 in invasive breast cancer cells results in down-regulation of Snail, partial reversal of EMT, and reduced invasiveness in vitro. Moreover, knockdown of Snail partially rescues the phenotype induced by Pea3 overexpression, suggesting that Snail is one of the mediators bridging Pea3 and EMT, and thereby metastatic progression of the cancer cells. In four breast cancer patient cohorts whose microarray and survival data were obtained from the Gene Expression Omnibus database, Pea3 and Snail expression are significantly correlated with each other and with overall survival of breast cancer patients. We further demonstrate that nuclear localization of Pea3 is associated with Snail expression in breast cancer cell lines and is an independent predictor of overall survival in a Chinese breast cancer patient cohort. In conclusion, our results suggest that Pea3 may be an important prognostic marker and a therapeutic target for metastatic progression of human breast cancer.

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