Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is an important mechanism for phenotypic conversion in normal development and disease states such as tissue fibrosis and metastasis. While this conversion of epithelia is under tight transcriptional control, few of the key transcriptional proteins are known. Fibroblasts produced by EMT express a gene encoding fibroblast-specific protein 1 (FSP1), which is regulated by a proximal cis-acting promoter element called fibroblast transcription site–1 (FTS-1). In mass spectrometry, chromatin immunoprecipitation, and siRNA studies, we used FTS-1 as a unique probe for mediators of EMT and identified a complex of 2 proteins, CArG box–binding factor–A (CBF-A) and KRAB-associated protein 1 (KAP-1), that bind this site. Epithelial cells engineered to conditionally express recombinant CBF-A (rCBF-A) activate the transcription of FSP1 and undergo EMT. The FTS-1 response element also exists in the promoters modulating a broader EMT transcriptome, including Twist, and Snail, as well as E-cadherin, β-catenin, ZO 1, vimentin, α1(I) collagen, and α–smooth muscle actin, and the induction of rCBF-A appropriately alters their expression as well. We believe formation of the CBF-A/KAP-1/FTS-1 complex is sufficient for the induction of FSP1 and a novel proximal activator of EMT.
Christo D. Venkov, Andrew J. Link, Jennifer L. Jennings, David Plieth, Tsutomu Inoue, Kojiro Nagai, Carol Xu, Yoana N. Dimitrova, Frank J. Rauscher III, Eric G. Neilson