Chemoresistance to 5-fluorouracil induces epithelial-mesenchymal transition via up-regulation of Snail in MCF7 human breast cancer cells

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2012 Jan 13;417(2):679-85. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2011.11.142. Epub 2011 Dec 7.


5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) is commonly used to treat breast cancer; however, it becomes increasingly ineffective with tumor progression. Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a process whereby cells acquire morphologic and molecular alterations facilitating tumor metastasis and progression. Emerging evidence associates chemoresistance with acquisition of EMT in cancer. However, it is not clear whether this phenomenon is involved in acquired resistance to 5-FU. Using a previously established in vitro cell model of 5-fluorouracil-resistant MCF7 cells (MCF7/5-FU), we assessed the cellular morphology, molecular changes, migration and invasion consistent with EMT. We found that silencing of Snail by stable RNA interference reversed the EMT and greatly abolished invasion behavior of MCF7/5-FU cells. We also showed that inhibition of Snail increased the sensitivity of 5-FU-resistant cells to 5-FU. Our study provided a new insight into EMT-like phenotypic changes associated with 5-FU resistance in MCF7 cells. We believed that down-regulation of Snail could be a potential novel therapeutic approach to overcoming chemoresistance and preventing metastasis during 5-FU chemotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / pharmacology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / genetics*
  • Female
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Up-Regulation


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors
  • Fluorouracil