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      Snail Involves in the Transforming Growth Factor β1-Mediated Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition of Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells


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          The proliferation of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells resulting from an epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays a key role in proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR), which leads to complex retinal detachment and the loss of vision. Genes of Snail family encode the zinc finger transcription factors that have been reported to be essential in EMT during embryonic development and cancer metastasis. However, the function of Snail in RPE cells undergoing EMT is largely unknown.

          Principal Findings

          Transforming growth factor beta(TGF-β)-1 resulted in EMT in human RPE cells (ARPE-19), which was characterized by the expected decrease in E-cadherin and Zona occludin-1(ZO-1) expression, and the increase in fibronectin and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expression, as well as the associated increase of Snail expression at both mRNA and protein levels. Furthermore, TGF-β1 treatment caused a significant change in ARPE-19 cells morphology, with transition from a typical epithelial morphology to mesenchymal spindle-shaped. More interestingly, Snail silencing significantly attenuated TGF-β1-induced EMT in ARPE-19 cells by decreasing the mesenchymal markers fibronectin and a-SMA and increasing the epithelial marker E-cadherin and ZO-1. Snail knockdown could effectively suppress ARPE-19 cell migration. Finally, Snail was activated in epiretinal membranes from PVR patients. Taken together, Snail plays very important roles in TGF-β-1-induced EMT in human RPE cells and may contribute to the development of PVR.


          Snail transcription factor plays a critical role in TGF-β1-induced EMT in human RPE cells, which provides deep insight into the pathogenesis of human PVR disease. The specific inhibition of Snail may provide a new approach to treat and prevent PVR.

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          Most cited references 30

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          Epithelial origin of myofibroblasts during fibrosis in the lung.

          An understanding of the mechanisms underlying pulmonary fibrosis remains elusive. Once believed to result primarily from chronic inflammation, it is now clear that inflammation and chronic fibrosis, especially in diseases such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis/usual interstitial pneumonia, are often dissociated, and that inflammation is neither necessary nor sufficient to induce fibrosis. The origin of the primary effector cell of fibrosis in the lung, the myofibroblast, is not clearly established. Three potential sources have been hypothesized. Although conversion of resident fibroblasts and differentiation of circulating bone marrow-derived progenitors likely play a role, the possible contribution of alveolar epithelial cells (AECs), through a process termed "epithelial-mesenchymal transition" (EMT), has only recently received consideration. A process by which epithelial cells lose cell-cell attachment, polarity and epithelial-specific markers, undergo cytoskeletal remodeling, and gain a mesenchymal phenotype, EMT plays a prominent role in fibrogenesis in adult tissues such as the kidney. This review summarizes the evidence supporting a central role for EMT in the pathogenesis of lung fibrosis, the potential for EMT in AECs in vitro and in vivo and role of transforming growth factor-beta1 in this process, and the implications of epithelium-driven fibrosis on future research and treatment. Potential pathways involved in EMT are also discussed. It is hoped that a major shift in current paradigms regarding the genesis of pulmonary fibrosis and dissection of the relevant pathways may allow development of targeted interventions that could potentially reverse the process and ameliorate the debilitating effects of abnormal repair and progressive fibrosis.
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            Snail is required for TGFbeta-induced endothelial-mesenchymal transition of embryonic stem cell-derived endothelial cells.

            Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays important roles in various physiological and pathological processes, and is regulated by signaling pathways mediated by cytokines, including transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta). Embryonic endothelial cells also undergo differentiation into mesenchymal cells during heart valve formation and aortic maturation. However, the molecular mechanisms that regulate such endothelial-mesenchymal transition (EndMT) remain to be elucidated. Here we show that TGFbeta plays important roles during mural differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cell-derived endothelial cells (MESECs). TGFbeta2 induced the differentiation of MESECs into mural cells, with a decrease in the expression of the endothelial marker claudin 5, and an increase in expression of the mural markers smooth muscle alpha-actin, SM22alpha and calponin, whereas a TGFbeta type I receptor kinase inhibitor inhibited EndMT. Among the transcription factors involved in EMT, Snail was induced by TGFbeta2 in MESECs. Tetracycline-regulated expression of Snail induced the differentiation of MESECs into mural cells, whereas knockdown of Snail expression abrogated TGFbeta2-induced mural differentiation of MESECs. These results indicate that Snail mediates the actions of endogenous TGFbeta signals that induce EndMT.
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              The role of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in renal fibrosis.

              Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) involving injured epithelial cells plays an important role in the progression of fibrosis in the kidney. Tubular epithelial cells can acquire a mesenchymal phenotype, and enhanced migratory capacity enabling them to transit from the renal tubular microenvironment into the interstitial space and escape potential apoptotic cell death. EMT is a major contributor to the pathogenesis of renal fibrosis, as it leads to a substantial increase in the number of myofibroblasts, leading to tubular atrophy. However, recent findings suggest that EMT involving tubular epithelial cell is a reversible process, potentially determined by the surviving cells to facilitate the repopulation of injured tubules with new functional epithelia. Major regulators of renal epithelial cell plasticity in the kidney are two multifunctional growth factors, bone morphogenic protein-7 (BMP-7) and transforming growth factor beta1 (TGF-beta1). While TGF-beta1 is a well-established inducer of EMT involving renal tubular epithelial cells, BMP-7 reverses EMT by directly counteracting TGF-beta-induced Smad-dependent cell signaling in renal tubular epithelial cells. Such antagonism results in the repair of injured kidneys, suggesting that modulation of epithelial cell plasticity has therapeutic advantages.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                10 August 2011
                : 6
                : 8
                [1 ]Department of Ophthalmology, Shanghai First People's Hospital, Affiliate of Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai, China
                [2 ]Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America
                [3 ]Department of Ophthalmology, Shanghai Tenth People's Hospital, Affiliate of Tongji University, Shanghai, China
                University of Sao Paulo – USP, Brazil
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: FW HL HWW. Performed the experiments: HL QG. Analyzed the data: HL. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: FW XX QG. Wrote the paper: HL HWW.

                Li et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 9
                Research Article
                Anatomy and Physiology
                Immune Physiology
                Molecular Cell Biology
                Cellular Types
                Epithelial Cells
                Retinal Disorders



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