Evolutionary functional analysis and molecular regulation of the ZEB transcription factors
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ZEB1 and ZEB2, which are members of the ZEB family of transcription factors, play a pivotal role in the development of the vertebrate embryo. However, recent evidence shows that both proteins can also drive the process of epithelial-mesenchymal transition during malignant cancer progression. The understanding of how both ZEBs act as transcription factors opens up new possibilities for future treatment of advanced carcinomas. This review gives insight into the molecular mechanisms that form the basis of the multitude of cellular processes controlled by both ZEB factors. By using an evolutionary approach, we analyzed how the specific organization of the different domains and regulatory sites in ZEB1 and ZEB2 came into existence. On the basis of this analysis, a detailed overview is provided of the different cofactors and post-translational mechanisms that are associated with ZEB protein functionality.