TFAP2A is a component of the ZEB1/2 network that regulates TGFB1-induced epithelial to mesenchymal transition

Biol Direct. 2017 Apr 17;12(1):8. doi: 10.1186/s13062-017-0180-7.


Background: The transition between epithelial and mesenchymal phenotypes (EMT) occurs in a variety of contexts. It is critical for mammalian development and it is also involved in tumor initiation and progression. Master transcription factor (TF) regulators of this process are conserved between mouse and human.

Methods: From a computational analysis of a variety of high-throughput sequencing data sets we initially inferred that TFAP2A is connected to the core EMT network in both species. We then analysed publicly available human breast cancer data for TFAP2A expression and also studied the expression (by mRNA sequencing), activity (by monitoring the expression of its predicted targets), and binding (by electrophoretic mobility shift assay and chromatin immunoprecipitation) of this factor in a mouse mammary gland EMT model system (NMuMG) cell line.

Results: We found that upon induction of EMT, the activity of TFAP2A, reflected in the expression level of its predicted targets, is up-regulated in a variety of systems, both murine and human, while TFAP2A's expression is increased in more "stem-like" cancers. We provide strong evidence for the direct interaction between the TFAP2A TF and the ZEB2 promoter and we demonstrate that this interaction affects ZEB2 expression. Overexpression of TFAP2A from an exogenous construct perturbs EMT, however, in a manner similar to the downregulation of endogenous TFAP2A that takes place during EMT.

Conclusions: Our study reveals that TFAP2A is a conserved component of the core network that regulates EMT, acting as a repressor of many genes, including ZEB2.

Reviewers: This article has been reviewed by Dr. Martijn Huynen and Dr. Nicola Aceto.

Keywords: EMT; Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition; NMuMG; TFAP2A; TGFb1; Transcription regulatory network; ZEB2.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / metabolism
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / physiopathology
  • Mice
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics*
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription Factor AP-2 / genetics
  • Transcription Factor AP-2 / metabolism*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / genetics
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / metabolism
  • Zinc Finger E-box Binding Homeobox 2
  • Zinc Finger E-box-Binding Homeobox 1 / genetics*
  • Zinc Finger E-box-Binding Homeobox 1 / metabolism


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Tfap2a protein, mouse
  • Tgfb1 protein, mouse
  • Transcription Factor AP-2
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1
  • ZEB1 protein, mouse
  • ZEB2 protein, mouse
  • Zinc Finger E-box Binding Homeobox 2
  • Zinc Finger E-box-Binding Homeobox 1