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Keywords:

  • epithelial mesenchymal transition;
  • signal transduction;
  • ZEB proteins

Abstract

Embryonic differentiation programs of epithelial–mesenchymal and mesenchymal–epithelial transition (EMT and MET) represent a mechanistic basis for epithelial cell plasticity implicated in cancer. Transcription factors of the ZEB protein family (ZEB1 and ZEB2) and several microRNA species (predominantly miR-200 family members) form a double negative feedback loop, which controls EMT and MET programs in both development and tumorigenesis. In this article, we review crosstalk between the ZEB/miR-200 axis and several signal transduction pathways activated at different stages of tumor development. The close association of ZEB proteins with these pathways is indirect evidence for the involvement of a ZEB/miR-200 loop in tumor initiation, progression and spread. Additionally, the configuration of signaling pathways involving ZEB/miR-200 loop suggests that ZEB1 and ZEB2 may have different, possibly even opposing, roles in some forms of human cancer.