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By moonlighting in the nucleus, Villin regulates epithelial plasticity

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-01-24, 03:41 authored by S Patnaik, SP George, E Pham, S Roy, K Singh, John MariadasonJohn Mariadason, S Khurana
Villin is a tissue-specific, actin-binding protein involved in the assembly and maintenance of microvilli in polarized epithelial cells. Conversely, villin is also linked with the loss of epithelial polarity and gain of the mesenchymal phenotype in migrating, invasive cells. In this study, we describe for the first time how villin can switch between these disparate functions to change tissue architecture by moonlighting in the nucleus. Our study reveals that the moonlighting function of villin in the nucleus may play an important role in tissue homeostasis and disease. Villin accumulates in the nucleus during wound repair, and altering the cellular microenvironment by inducing hypoxia increases the nuclear accumulation of villin. Nuclear villin is also associated with mouse models of tumorigenesis, and a systematic analysis of a large cohort of colorectal cancer specimens confirmed the nuclear distribution of villin in a subset of tumors. Our study demonstrates that nuclear villin regulates epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Altering the nuclear localization of villin affects the expression and activity of Slug, a key transcriptional regulator of EMT. In addition, we find that villin directly interacts with a transcriptional corepressor and ligand of the Slug promoter, ZBRK1. The outcome of this study underscores the role of nuclear villin and its binding partner ZBRK1 in the regulation of EMT and as potential new therapeutic targets to inhibit tumorigenesis.


Publication Date



Molecular Biology of the Cell






14p. (p. 535-548)


American Society for Cell Biology



Rights Statement

© 2016 Patnaik, George, et al. This article is distributed by The American Society for Cell Biology under license from the author(s). Two months after publication it is available to the public under an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License (