ASPP2 controls epithelial plasticity and inhibits metastasis through β-catenin-dependent regulation of ZEB1

Wang Y, Bu F, Royer C, Serres S, Larkin JR, Soto MS, Sibson NR, Salter V, Fritzsche F, Turnquist C, Koch S, Zak J, Zhong S, Wu G, Liang A, Olofsen PA, Moch H, Hancock DC, Downward J, Goldin RD, Zhao J, Tong X, Guo Y, Lu X (2014)

Nature Cell Biology 16 11 1092-104. DOI: 10.1038/ncb3050.


Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), and the reverse mesenchymal to epithelial transition (MET), are known examples of epithelial plasticity that are important in kidney development and cancer metastasis. Here we identify ​ASPP2, a haploinsufficient tumour suppressor, ​p53 activator and ​PAR3 binding partner, as a molecular switch of MET and EMT. ​ASPP2 contributes to MET in mouse kidney in vivo. Mechanistically, ​ASPP2 induces MET through its ​PAR3-binding amino-terminus, independently of ​p53 binding. ​ASPP2 prevents ​β-catenin from transactivating ​ZEB1, directly by forming an ​ASPP2–​β-catenin–​E-cadherin ternary complex and indirectly by inhibiting ​β-catenin's N-terminal phosphorylation to stabilize the ​β-catenin–​E-cadherin complex. ​ASPP2 limits the pro-invasive property of oncogenic RAS and inhibits tumour metastasis in vivo. Reduced ​ASPP2 expression results in EMT, and is associated with poor survival in hepatocellular carcinoma and breast cancer patients. Hence, ​ASPP2 is a key regulator of epithelial plasticity that connects cell polarity to the suppression of WNT signalling, EMT and tumour metastasis.