Estrogen receptor is a key regulator of proliferation and differentiation in mammary epithelia and represents a crucial prognostic indicator and therapeutic target in breast cancer. Mechanistically, estrogen receptor induces changes in gene expression through direct gene activation and also through the biological functions of target loci. Here, we identify the product of human MTA3 as an estrogen-dependent component of the Mi-2/NuRD transcriptional corepressor in breast epithelial cells and demonstrate that MTA3 constitutes a key component of an estrogen-dependent pathway regulating growth and differentiation. The absence of estrogen receptor or of MTA3 leads to aberrant expression of the transcriptional repressor Snail, a master regulator of epithelial to mesenchymal transitions. Aberrant Snail expression results in loss of expression of the cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin, an event associated with changes in epithelial architecture and invasive growth. These results establish a mechanistic link between estrogen receptor status and invasive growth of breast cancers.
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