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Differential roles of the Drosophila EMT-inducing transcription factors Snail and Serpent in driving primary tumour growth

The group of Jordi Casanova at IBMB has just published their work on two Drosophila transcription factors, the classic EMT inducer Snail and the Drosophila orthologue of hGATAs4/6, Serpent, which drives an alternative mechanism of EMT. Their results provide insight into how transcription factors that induce EMT can also promote primary tumour growth, and how in some cases such as GATA factors a ‘multi hit’ effect may be achieved through the aberrant activation of just a single gene.
Differential roles of the Drosophila EMT-inducing transcription factors Snail and Serpent in driving primary tumour growth

Fig 1. Both Srp and Sna drive an EMT in wing disc cells

Several transcription factors have been identified that activate an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), which endows cells with the capacity to break through basement membranes and migrate away from their site of origin. A key program in development, in recent years it has been shown to be a crucial driver of tumour invasion and metastasis. However, several of these EMT-inducing transcription factors are often expressed long before the initiation of the invasion-metastasis cascade as well as in non-invasive tumours. Increasing evidence suggests that they may promote primary tumour growth, but their precise role in this process remains to be elucidated. To investigate this issue we have focused our studies on two Drosophila transcription factors, the classic EMT inducer Snail and the Drosophila orthologue of hGATAs4/6, Serpent, which drives an alternative mechanism of EMT; both Snail and GATA are specifically expressed in a number of human cancers, particularly at invasive front and in metastasis. Thus, we recreated conditions of Snail and of Serpent high expression in the fly imaginal wing disc and analysed their effect. While either Snail or Serpent induced a profound loss of epithelial polarity and tissue organisation, Serpent but not Snail also induced an increase in the size of wing discs. Furthermore, the Serpent-induced tumour-like tissues were able to grow extensively when transplanted into the abdomen of adult hosts. We found the differences between Snail and Serpent to correlate with the genetic program they elicit; while activation of either results in an increase in the expression of Yorki target genes, Serpent additionally activates the Ras signalling pathway. These results provide insight into how transcription factors that induce EMT can also promote primary tumour growth, and how in some cases such as GATA factors a ‘multi hit’ effect may be achieved through the aberrant activation of just a single gene.

 

Campbell K, Lebreton G, Franch-Marro X, Casanova J (2018) Differential roles of the Drosophila EMT-inducing transcription factors Snail and Serpent in driving primary tumour growth. PLOS Genetics 14(2): e1007167. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1007167

http://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1007167

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