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Open Access Research

The Wilms’ tumor gene (WT1) regulates E-cadherin expression and migration of prostate cancer cells

Adina Brett1, Sony Pandey2 and Gail Fraizer12*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Biomedical Sciences, Kent State University, Kent, OH, 44242, USA

2 Department of Biological Sciences, Kent State University, Kent, OH, 44242, USA

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Molecular Cancer 2013, 12:3  doi:10.1186/1476-4598-12-3

Published: 8 January 2013



One key step in the development of prostate cancer (PCa) metastasis is the loss of E-cadherin expression associated with increased cellular motility and tumor invasion. This loss of E-cadherin expression is also required during normal embryogenesis and similar transcriptional repressors have been identified in both processes. We have previously reported the presence of one such transcription factor, WT1 in high Gleason grade prostate tumor tissues, and its absence in non-neoplastic or benign prostatic hyperplasia tissues.


To better understand the effect of WT1 on E-cadherin expression and migration of PCa cells we quantified WT1 and E-cadherin mRNA levels in normal prostate epithelial and PCa cell lines with varying migratory potential. In WT1 transfected cells E-cadherin transcript levels were decreased, while they were increased in siWT1-RNA transfected PCa cells, suggesting that elevated WT1 expression was sufficient to dampen E-cadherin levels and potentially enhance migratory ability. To delineate the mechanism of WT1-mediated repression of E-cadherin, potential WT1 binding sites were tested in vitro and in vivo binding of WT1 to the E-cadherin promoter in the chromatin of LNCaP and PC3 cells was assessed by Chromatin Immunoprecipitation. The effect of WT1 binding was measured in reporter assays; in PC3 and DU145 cells WT1 decreased the activity of the proximal E-cadherin promoter. Using site-directed mutagenesis, a newly identified WT1 binding site located 146 bp from the transcription start site was shown to be required for this repression by WT1. Transwell migration and wound healing assays revealed that in LNCaP cells with low migratory potential, over-expression of WT1 was sufficient to enhance migration, conversely, in the highly migratory PC3 cells silencing of WT1 decreased migration.


These findings suggested that WT1 expression in high grade prostate cancer may contribute to migration and metastasis. Thus, in prostate cancer WT1 may function as a novel oncogene facilitating development of the lethal metastatic phenotype.

WT1; E-cadherin; Prostate cancer; Migration; Metastasis