Runkle EA, Rice SJ, Qi J, Masser D, Antonetti DA, Winslow MM, Mu D.
The thyroid transcription factor 1 gene (TTF-1 or NKX2-1) is essential to lung development; however, it is also a critical factor in lung cancer. TTF-1 is amplified in lung cancers, suggesting that it is a gain-of-function lung oncogene. Conversely, TTF-1 counters epithelial to mesenchymal transition in cell-based studies and inhibits progression of primary lung adenocarcinomas to metastases in an animal model of lung adenocarcinomas. The unifying theory regarding TTF-1 is that it exhibits both pro-oncogenic and anti-metastatic function depending on the cellular context. Occludin is the first discovered constituent of the epithelial tight junction; in recent years, a functional role of occludin as a tumor suppressor has begun to emerge. Here, we demonstrate that TTF-1 transactivated the expression of the epithelial tight junction molecules occludin (OCLN) and claudin-1 (CLDN1). We show that transcriptional activation occurred through a direct interaction of TTF-1 with the OCLN and CLDN1 promoters. Furthermore, in cells that lack TTF-1, exogenous TTF-1 expression dampened the inhibitory effect of TGF-β on occludin and claudin-1 content. Using cells derived from a genetically-engineered mouse model of lung adenocarcinomas, we observed that silenced TTF-1 expression down-regulated occludin, which we supported with additional siRNA experiments. Finally, TTF-1 knockdown conferred human lung cancer cells resistance to anoikis and expression of occludin restored cellular sensitivity to anoikis. Overexpression of occludin impeded migration and induced anoikis in lung carcinoma cells. Collectively, these data suggest that TTF-1 transcriptionally regulates occludin which represents another avenue of TTF-1-mediated metastasis suppression.