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Cancer Cell death Cell cycle Cytoskeleton Exo/endocytosis Differentiation Division Organelles Signalling Stem cells Trafficking
Cell Biology International (2002) 26, 463–476 (Printed in Great Britain)
Kwonseop Kimf2, Zifan Lu and Elizabeth D Hayf1
Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, 02115, U.S.A.


Epithelial-mesenchymal transformation (EMT) is an important process in development that is characterized by loss of E-cadherin, β-catenin relocalization, and acquisition of elongated cell shape and ability to invade ECM. β-catenin has been shown to activate LEF-1 transcription during EMT induced in vitro by c-Fos. Here, we ask whether or not LEF-1 directly introduced into epithelial cells in an adenovirus construct can induce EMT. In normal epithelial cell lines, such as HCE and MDCK cells, that contain functional APC, nuclear β-catenin induced by exogenous LEF-1 is rapidly exported and EMT is not induced. Leptomycin-B blocks β-catenin nuclear export, but no EMT occurs due to toxicity. Addition of Wnt-1 to normal epithelial cell lines stabilizes cytoplasmic β-catenin that LEF-1 then transports to nuclei, causing a small amount of EMT. Our experiments demonstrated, however, that overexpressed LEF-1 upregulates nuclear β-catenin and promotes dramatic EMT in DLD-1 epithelial tumors that retain nuclear β-catenin. This EMT is reversible if the LEF-1 virus is removed. Thus, our results demonstrate that LEF-1 can induce EMT directly when its transcription activity is activated by stable nuclear β-catenin. Normal adult epithelial cells appear to use APC to keep β-catenin out of the nucleus, thereby avoiding pathologies such as metastases due to LEF/β-catenin-induced EMT.

Key words: β-catenin, LEF-1, DLD1, MDCK, HCE cells, epithelial-mesenchymal transformation.

f2Present Address: Dr Kwonseop Kim, College of Pharmacy, Chonnam National University, 300 Yongbong-dong, GwangJu (500-757), South Korea.

f1To whom correspondence should be addressed: Dr Elizabeth D. Hay, Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, 220 Longwood Ave., Boston, MA 02115, U.S.A. Tel: 1-617-432-1651; Fax: 1-617-432-0407; Email:

Received 9 August 2001; accepted 9 April 2002


ISSN Print: 1065-6995
ISSN Electronic: 1095-8355
Published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the International Federation for Cell Biology (IFCB)