A positive role for Myc in TGFbeta-induced Snail transcription and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition

Oncogene. 2009 Jan 22;28(3):422-30. doi: 10.1038/onc.2008.395. Epub 2008 Nov 3.


Myc and transforming growth factor-beta (TGFbeta) signaling are mutually antagonistic, that is Myc suppresses the activation of TGFbeta-induced genes, whereas TGFbeta represses c-myc transcription. Here, we report a positive role for Myc in the TGFbeta response, consisting in the induction of an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and the activation of the EMT-associated gene Snail. Knockdown of either Myc or the TGFbeta effectors SMAD3/4 in epithelial cells eliminated Snail induction by TGFbeta. Both Myc and SMAD complexes targeted the Snail promoter in vivo, DNA binding occurring in a mutually independent manner. Myc was bound prior to TGFbeta treatment, and was required for rapid Snail activation upon SMAD binding induced by TGFbeta. On the other hand, c-myc downregulation by TGFbeta was a slower event, occurring after Snail induction. The response of Snail to another cytokine, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), also depended on Myc and SMAD4. Thus, contrary to their antagonistic effects on Cip1 and INK4b, Myc and SMADs cooperate in signal-dependent activation of Snail in epithelial cells. Although Myc also targeted the Snail promoter in serum-stimulated fibroblasts, it was dispensable for its activation in these conditions, further illustrating that the action of Myc in transcriptional regulation is context-dependent. Our findings suggest that Myc and TGFbeta signaling may cooperate in promoting EMT and metastasis in carcinomas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / cytology
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / metabolism
  • Mesoderm / cytology
  • Mesoderm / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / physiology*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • Smad2 Protein / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Smad2 Protein / genetics
  • Smad2 Protein / metabolism
  • Smad3 Protein / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Smad3 Protein / genetics
  • Smad3 Protein / metabolism
  • Smad4 Protein / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Smad4 Protein / genetics
  • Smad4 Protein / metabolism
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism*


  • Myc protein, mouse
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Smad2 Protein
  • Smad3 Protein
  • Smad4 Protein
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta