Breast cancer metastasis accounts for most of the deaths from breast cancer. Since epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays an important role in promoting metastasis of cancer, many mechanisms regarding EMT have been studied. We previously showed that Ribonucleic acid export 1 (RAE1) is dysregulated in breast cancer and its overexpression leads to aggressive breast cancer phenotypes by inducing EMT. Here, we evaluated the functional capacity of RAE1 in breast cancer metastasis by using a three-dimensional (3D) culture system and xenograft models. Furthermore, to investigate the mechanisms of RAE1-driven EMT, in vitro studies were carried out. The induction of EMT with RAE1-overexpression was confirmed under the 3D culture system and in vivo system. Importantly, RAE1 mediates upregulation of an EMT marker ZEB1, by binding to the promoter region of ZEB1. Knockdown of ZEB1 in RAE1-overexpressing cells suppressed invasive and migratory behaviors, accompanied by an increase in epithelial and a decrease in mesenchymal markers. Taken together, these data demonstrate that RAE1 contributes to breast cancer metastasis by regulating a key EMT-inducing factor ZEB1 expression, suggesting its potential as a therapeutic target.
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