ZBRK1, a zinc finger protein that interacts with breast cancer 1 (BRCA1) and KRAB-ZFP-associated protein 1 (KAP1), has been suggested to serve as a tumor suppressor via repression of tumor metastasis/invasion. To date, the detailed molecular mechanisms for how BRCA1 and KAP1 participate in ZBRK1-mediated transcriptional repression, metastasis and invasion as well as the associated clinical relevance remain unclear. In this study, we demonstrated that both the N- and C-terminal domains of ZBRK1 are important for inhibiting cell proliferation and anchorage-independent growth in cervical cancer. Specifically, the N-terminal KRAB domain of ZBRK1 displayed a more crucial role in inhibiting metastasis and invasion through modulation of KAP1 function in a transcriptionally dependent manner. The loss of ZBRK1 results in an increase of KAP1 expression, which enhanced migration and invasion of cervical cancer cells both the in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, an inverse correlation of expression levels was observed between ZBRK1 and KAP1 following tumor progression from in situ carcinoma to invasive/metastatic cervical cancer specimens. Taken together, the current results indicate that a loss of ZBRK1 contributes to the increased expression of KAP1, potentiating its role to enhance metastasis and invasion.
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