Research Papers:

An hTERT/ZEB1 complex directly regulates E-cadherin to promote epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in colorectal cancer

Yong Qin, Bo Tang, Chang-Jiang Hu, Yu-Feng Xiao, Rui Xie, Xin Yong, Yu-Yun Wu, Hui Dong and Shi-Ming Yang _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:351-361. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5968

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Yong Qin1, Bo Tang1, Chang-Jiang Hu1, Yu-Feng Xiao1, Rui Xie1, Xin Yong1, Yu-Yun Wu1, Hui Dong1, Shi-Ming Yang1

1Department of Gastroenterology, Xinqiao Hospital, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing 400037, P.R. China

Correspondence to:

Shi-Ming Yang, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: hTERT, ZEB1, EMT, CRC

Received: April 12, 2015     Accepted: October 08, 2015     Published: October 20, 2015


In human cancer, high telomerase expression is correlated with tumor aggressiveness and metastatic potential. Telomerase activation occurs through telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) induction, which contributes to malignant transformation by stabilizing telomeres. Previous studies have shown that hTERT can promote tumor invasion and metastasis of gastric cancer, liver cancer and esophageal cancer. Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a requirement for tumor invasion and metastasis, plays a key role in cancer progression. Although hTERT promotes EMT through Wnt signaling in several cancers, it is unknown if other signaling pathways are involved. In the present study, we found that hTERT and ZEB1 form a complex, which directly binds to the E-cadherin promoter, and then inhibits E-cadherin expression and promots EMT in colorectal cancer cells. hTERT overexpression in HCT116 and SW480 cells could induce E-cadherin down-regulation. However, E-cadherin expression was recovered when ZEB1 function was impaired even during hTERT overexpression. Taken together, our findings suggest that hTERT can promote cancer metastasis by stimulating EMT through the ZEB1 pathway and therefore inhibiting them may prevent cancer progression.

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