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β-catenin, Twist and Snail: Transcriptional regulation of EMT in smokers and COPD, and relation to airflow obstruction

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Christopher WardORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2017 The Author(s). COPD is characterised by poorly reversible airflow obstruction usually due to cigarette smoking. The transcription factor clusters of β-catenin/Snail1/Twist has been implicated in the process of epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT), an intermediate between smoking and airway fibrosis, and indeed lung cancer. We have investigated expression of these transcription factors and their "cellular localization" in bronchoscopic airway biopsies from patients with COPD, and in smoking and non-smoking controls. An immune-histochemical study compared cellular protein expression of β-catenin, Snail1 and Twist, in these subject groups in 3 large airways compartment: epithelium (basal region), reticular basement membrane (Rbm) and underlying lamina propria (LP). β-catenin and Snail1 expression was generally high in all subjects throughout the airway wall with marked cytoplasmic to nuclear shift in COPD (P < 0.01). Twist expression was generalised in the epithelium in normal but become more basal and nuclear with smoking (P < 0.05). In addition, β-catenin and Snail1 expression, and to lesser extent of Twist, was related to airflow obstruction and to expression of a canonical EMT biomarker (S100A4). The β-catenin-Snail1-Twist transcription factor cluster is up-regulated and nuclear translocated in smokers and COPD, and their expression is closely related to both EMT activity and airway obstruction.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mahmood MQ, Walters EH, Shukla SD, Weston S, Muller HK, Ward C, Sohal SS

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Scientific Reports

Year: 2017

Volume: 7

Online publication date: 07/09/2017

Acceptance date: 23/08/2017

Date deposited: 05/10/2017

ISSN (electronic): 2045-2322

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-11375-x


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