Requirement of the histone demethylase LSD1 in Snai1-mediated transcriptional repression during epithelial-mesenchymal transition

Oncogene. 2010 Sep 2;29(35):4896-904. doi: 10.1038/onc.2010.234. Epub 2010 Jun 21.


Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) has pivotal roles during embryonic development and carcinoma progression. Members of the Snai1 family of zinc finger transcription factors are central mediators of EMT and induce EMT in part by directly repressing epithelial markers such as E-cadherin, a gatekeeper of the epithelial phenotype and a suppressor of tumor invasion. However, the molecular mechanism underlying Snai1-mediated transcriptional repression remains incompletely understood. Here we show that Snai1 physically interacts with and recruits the histone demethylase LSD1 (KDM1A) to epithelial gene promoters. LSD1 removes dimethylation of lysine 4 on histone H3 (H3K4m2), a covalent histone modification associated with active chromatin. Importantly, LSD1 is essential for Snai1-mediated transcriptional repression and for maintenance of the silenced state of Snai1 target genes in invasive cancer cells. In the absence of LSD1, Snai1 fails to repress E-cadherin. In cancer cells in which E-cadherin is silenced, depletion of LSD1 results in partial de-repression of epithelial genes and elevated H3K4m2 levels at the E-cadherin promoter. These results underline the critical role of LSD1 in Snai1-dependent transcriptional repression of epithelial markers and suggest that the LSD1 complex could be a potential therapeutic target for prevention of EMT-associated tumor invasion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA Methylation
  • Down-Regulation*
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Gene Silencing
  • Histone Demethylases / deficiency
  • Histone Demethylases / genetics
  • Histone Demethylases / metabolism*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mesoderm / cytology*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Histones
  • SNAI1 protein, human
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors
  • Histone Demethylases
  • KDM1A protein, human