ZEB1, a member of the zinc-finger E-box binding homeobox family, is considered to play a crucial role in cancer progression and metastasis. In the current study, we investigated the role of ZEB1 in metastasis and chronic chemoresistance of epithelial ovarian carcinoma (EOC) cells. Using several EOC and acquired paclitaxel (PTX)- resistant EOC cell lines, we investigated whether silencing ZEB1 led to a reversal of the chemoresistance and metastatic potential in vitro and in vivo. Subsequently, the expression of ZEB1 in EOC tissues and its association with the oncologic outcome were investigated. According to the immunohistochemical staining of EOC tissues, as the positivity of ZEB1 expression was increased, the overall survival of EOC patients became poorer (P = 0.0022 for trend). Additionally, cell migration and invasion were significantly decreased by ZEB1 silencing in both PTX-sensitive and PTX- resistant cells. Although PTX-sensitivity was not changed by silencing ZEB1 in parental EOC cells, the depletion of ZEB1 made the PTX-resistant EOC cells more sensitive to PTX treatment. In an animal model, mice injected with ZEB1-silencing PTX-resistant cells survived for longer than the control cell-injected mice. Although the intravenous injection of PTX did not affect the tumor weight of shCtrl cells, the tumor weight of shZEB1 cells was significantly reduced by PTX treatment. The current data indicate the possible involvement of ZEB1 in the metastasis and paclitaxel resistance of EOC, and suggest that targeting this molecule may reverse the malignant potential and improve the oncologic outcome for EOC patients.
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