JOURNAL ARTICLE

Leptin-induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition in breast cancer cells requires β-catenin activation via Akt/GSK3- and MTA1/Wnt1 protein-dependent pathways

Dan Yan, Dimiter Avtanski, Neeraj K Saxena, Dipali Sharma
Journal of Biological Chemistry 2012 March 9, 287 (11): 8598-612
22270359
Perturbations in the adipocytokine profile, especially higher levels of leptin, are a major cause of breast tumor progression and metastasis; the underlying mechanisms, however, are not well understood. In particular, it remains elusive whether leptin is involved in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Here, we provide molecular evidence that leptin induces breast cancer cells to undergo a transition from epithelial to spindle-like mesenchymal morphology. Investigating the downstream mediator(s) that may direct leptin-induced EMT, we found functional interactions between leptin, metastasis-associated protein 1 (MTA1), and Wnt1 signaling components. Leptin increases accumulation and nuclear translocation of β-catenin leading to increased promoter recruitment. Silencing of β-catenin or treatment with the small molecule inhibitor, ICG-001, inhibits leptin-induced EMT, invasion, and tumorsphere formation. Mechanistically, leptin stimulates phosphorylation of glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β) via Akt activation resulting in a substantial decrease in the formation of the GSK3β-LKB1-Axin complex that leads to increased accumulation of β-catenin. Leptin treatment also increases Wnt1 expression that contributes to GSK3β phosphorylation. Inhibition of Wnt1 abrogates leptin-stimulated GSK3β phosphorylation. We also discovered that leptin increases the expression of an important modifier of Wnt1 signaling, MTA1, which is integral to leptin-mediated regulation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway as silencing of MTA1 inhibits leptin-induced Wnt1 expression, GSK3β phosphorylation, and β-catenin activation. Furthermore, analysis of leptin-treated breast tumors shows increased expression of Wnt1, pGSK3β, and vimentin along with higher nuclear accumulation of β-catenin and reduced E-cadherin expression providing in vivo evidence for a previously unrecognized cross-talk between leptin and MTA1/Wnt signaling in epithelial-mesenchymal transition of breast cancer cells.

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