Histone demethylase KDM6B promotes epithelial-mesenchymal transition

J Biol Chem. 2012 Dec 28;287(53):44508-17. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.424903. Epub 2012 Nov 14.


Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a critical event that occurs in embryonic development, tissue repair control, organ fibrosis, and carcinoma invasion and metastasis. Although significant progress has been made in understanding the molecular regulation of EMT, little is known about how chromatin is modified in EMT. Chromatin modifications through histone acetylation and methylation determine the precise control of gene expression. Recently, histone demethylases were found to play important roles in gene expression through demethylating mono-, di-, or trimethylated lysines. KDM6B (also known as JMJD3) is a histone demethylase that might activate gene expression by removing repressive histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation marks from chromatin. Here we report that KDM6B played a permissive role in TGF-β-induced EMT in mammary epithelial cells by stimulating SNAI1 expression. KDM6B was induced by TGF-β, and the knockdown of KDM6B inhibited EMT induced by TGF-β. Conversely, overexpression of KDM6B induced the expression of mesenchymal genes and promoted EMT. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays revealed that KDM6B promoted SNAI1 expression by removing histone H3 lysine trimethylation marks. Consistently, our analysis of the Oncomine database found that KDM6B expression was significantly increased in invasive breast carcinoma compared with normal breast tissues. The knockdown of KDM6B significantly inhibited breast cancer cell invasion. Collectively, our study uncovers a novel epigenetic mechanism regulating EMT and tumor cell invasion, and has important implication in targeting cancer metastasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / enzymology*
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Jumonji Domain-Containing Histone Demethylases / genetics
  • Jumonji Domain-Containing Histone Demethylases / metabolism*
  • Mesoderm / cytology
  • Mesoderm / enzymology*
  • Mice
  • Protein Binding
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism


  • Histones
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Jumonji Domain-Containing Histone Demethylases
  • KDM6B protein, human
  • Kdm6b protein, mouse