Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Snail transcription factor negatively regulates maspin tumor suppressor in human prostate cancer cells

Corey L Neal1, Veronica Henderson1, Bethany N Smith1, Danielle McKeithen1, Tisheeka Graham2, Baohan T Vo1 and Valerie A Odero-Marah13*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development and Department of Biological Sciences, Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA, 30314, USA

2 Molecular Urology and Therapeutics Program, Department of Urology and Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, 30322, USA

3 The Department of Biological Sciences, Clark Atlanta University, 223 James P Brawley Dr SW Box 1722, Atlanta, GA, 30314, USA

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BMC Cancer 2012, 12:336  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-336

Published: 2 August 2012



Maspin, a putative tumor suppressor that is down-regulated in breast and prostate cancer, has been associated with decreased cell motility. Snail transcription factor is a zinc finger protein that is increased in breast cancer and is associated with increased tumor motility and invasion by induction of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). We investigated the molecular mechanisms by which Snail increases tumor motility and invasion utilizing prostate cancer cells.


Expression levels were analyzed by RT-PCR and western blot analyses. Cell motility and invasion assays were performed, while Snail regulation and binding to maspin promoter was analyzed by luciferase reporter and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays.


Snail protein expression was higher in different prostate cancer cells lines as compared to normal prostate epithelial cells, which correlated inversely with maspin expression. Snail overexpression in 22Rv1 prostate cancer cells inhibited maspin expression and led to increased migration and invasion. Knockdown of Snail in DU145 and C4-2 cancer cells resulted in up-regulation of maspin expression, concomitant with decreased migration. Transfection of Snail into 22Rv1 or LNCaP cells inhibited maspin promoter activity, while stable knockdown of Snail in C4-2 cells increased promoter activity. ChIP analysis showed that Snail is recruited to the maspin promoter in 22Rv1 cells.


Overall, this is the first report showing that Snail can negatively regulate maspin expression by directly repressing maspin promoter activity, leading to increased cell migration and invasion. Therefore, therapeutic targeting of Snail may be useful to re-induce expression of maspin tumor suppressor and prevent prostate cancer tumor progression.

Snail; Maspin; Prostate cancer