TRIM29 (ATDC) exhibits a contextual function in cancer, but seems to exert a tumor-suppressor role in breast cancer. Here, we show that TRIM29 is often silenced in primary breast tumors and cultured tumor cells as a result of aberrant gene hypermethylation. RNAi-mediated silencing of TRIM29 in breast tumor cells increased their motility, invasiveness, and proliferation in a manner associated with increased expression of mesenchymal markers (N-cadherin and vimentin), decreased expression of epithelial markers (E-cadherin and EpCAM), and increased expression and activity of the oncogenic transcription factor TWIST1, an important driver of the epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT). Functional investigations revealed an inverse relationship in the expression of TRIM29 and TWIST1, suggesting the existence of a negative regulatory feedback loop. In support of this relationship, we found that TWIST1 inhibited TRIM29 promoter activity through direct binding to a region containing a cluster of consensus E-box elements, arguing that TWIST1 transcriptionally represses TRIM29 expression. Analysis of a public breast cancer gene-expression database indicated that reduced TRIM29 expression was associated with reduced relapse-free survival, increased tumor size, grade, and metastatic characteristics. Taken together, our results suggest that TRIM29 acts as a tumor suppressor in breast cancer through its ability to inhibit TWIST1 and suppress EMT.
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