Roles and epigenetic regulation of epithelial-mesenchymal transition and its transcription factors in cancer initiation and progression.

Research paper by Jeong-Yeon JY Lee, Gu G Kong

Indexed on: 28 Jul '16Published on: 28 Jul '16Published in: Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences


The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a crucial developmental process by which epithelial cells undergo a mesenchymal phenotypic change. During EMT, epigenetic mechanisms including DNA methylation and histone modifications are involved in the regulation of EMT-related genes. The epigenetic gene silencing of the epithelial marker E-cadherin has been well characterized. In particular, three major transcriptional repressors of E-cadherin, Snail, ZEB, and Twist families, also known as EMT-inducing transcription factors (EMT-TFs), play a crucial role in this process by cooperating with multiple epigenetic modifiers. Furthermore, recent studies have identified the novel epigenetic modifiers that control the expression of EMT-TFs, and these modifiers have emerged as critical regulators of cancer development and as novel therapeutic targets for human cancer. In this review, the diverse functions of EMT-TFs in cancer progression, the cooperative mechanisms of EMT-TFs with epigenetic modifiers, and epigenetic regulatory roles for the expression of EMT-TFs will be discussed.