Different levels of Twist1 regulate skin tumor initiation, stemness, and progression

Cell Stem Cell. 2015 Jan 8;16(1):67-79. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2014.12.002.


Twist1 promotes epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), invasion, metastasis, and cancer stem cell (CSC) properties. However, it remains unclear whether Twist1 is also required for tumor initiation and whether Twist1-induced cancer stemness and EMT are functionally linked. Using a conditional deletion of Twist1 at different stages of skin carcinogenesis, we show that Twist1 is required for skin tumor initiation and progression in a gene-dosage-dependent manner. Moreover, conditional ablation of Twist1 in benign tumors leads to increased apoptosis, reduced cell proliferation, and defective tumor maintenance and propagation independently of its EMT-inducing abilities. Concomitant deletion of Twist1 and p53 rescues the apoptotic response, but not the cell proliferation and propagation defects. These results reveal that Twist1 is required for tumor initiation and maintenance in a p53-dependent and -independent manner. Importantly, our findings also indicate that tumor stemness and EMT can be regulated by distinct mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis / metabolism*
  • Carcinogenesis / pathology
  • Disease Progression*
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Stability
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism
  • Twist-Related Protein 1 / metabolism*


  • Nuclear Proteins
  • TWIST1 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Twist-Related Protein 1
  • Twist1 protein, mouse

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE63334