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Vol. 185, No. 1-3, 2007
Issue release date: June 2007
Cells Tissues Organs 2007;185:162–174

Chromatin Structure Regulation in Transforming Growth Factor-β-Directed Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition

Blumenberg M. · Gao S. · Dickman K. · Grollman A.P. · Bottinger E.P. · Zavadil J.
aDepartment of Dermatology, New York University School of Medicine, bDepartment of Pharmacological Sciences, SUNY Stony Brook, cDepartment of Medicine, VA Medical Center, Northport, dDepartment of Medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, and eDepartment of Pathology and NYU Cancer Institute, New York University School of Medicine, New York, N.Y., USA

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Epithelial-mesenchymal transitions (EMTs) occur in organogenesis throughout embryonic development and are recapitulated during epithelial tissue injury and in carcinoma progression. EMTs are regulated by complex, precisely orchestrated cell signaling and gene expression networks, with the participation of key developmental pathways. Here we review context-dependent modules of gene regulation by hairy/enhancer-of-split-related (H/E(spl)) repressors downstream of transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)/Smad and Notch signals in EMT and in other phenotype transitions such as differentiation and cancer. Based on multiple models of disease-related EMT, we propose that Polycomb group epigenetic silencers and histone-lysine methyl-transferases EZH1 and EZH2 are candidate targets of H/E(spl)-mediated transcriptional repression, in a process accompanied by replacement of modified core histone H3 with de novo synthesized histone variant H3.3B. Finally, we discuss the potential significance of this scenario for EMT in the light of recent findings on gene regulation by histone modifications and chromatin structure changes.

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