ARTICLE ABSTRACTEpithelial-to-mesenchymal transition results in loss of specialized epithelial cell contacts and acquisition of mesenchymal invasive capacity. The transcription repressor zinc finger E-box-binding homeobox 1 (ZEB1) binds to E-boxes of gene promoter regions to suppress the expression of epithelial genes. ZEB1 has inconsistent molecular weights, which have been attributed to posttranslational modifications (PTM). We performed mass spectrometry and identified K811 acetylation as a novel PTM in ZEB1. To define the role of ZEB1 acetylation in regulating function, we generated ZEB1 acetyl-mimetic (K811Q) and acetyl-deficient (K811R) mutant-expressing non–small cell lung cancer cell lines (NSCLC). We demonstrate that the K811R ZEB1 (125 kDa) has a shorter protein half-life than wild-type (WT) ZEB1 and K811Q ZEB1 (∼225 kDa), suggesting that lack of ZEB1 acetylation in the lower molecular weight form affects protein stability. Further, the acetylated form of ZEB1 recruits the nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase (NuRD) complex to bind the promoter of its target genes mir200c-141 and SEMA3F. RNA-sequencing revealed that WT ZEB1 and K811Q ZEB1 downregulate the expression of epithelial genes to promote lung adenocarcinoma invasion and metastasis, whereas the K811R ZEB1 does not. Our findings establish that the K811 acetylation promotes ZEB1 protein stability, interaction with other protein complexes, and subsequent invasion/metastasis of lung adenocarcinoma via epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition.
The molecular mechanisms by which ZEB1 is regulated by K811 acetylation to promote protein stability, NuRD complex and promoter interactions, and function are relevant to the development of treatment strategies to prevent and treat metastasis in patients with NSCLC.