Cancer Cell. 2015 Feb 9;27(2):177-92. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2014.11.025.
Transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) functions as a tumor suppressor in premalignant cells but as a metastasis promoter in cancer cells. The dichotomous functions of TGF-β are proposed to be dictated by different partners of its downstream effector Smads. However, the mechanism for the contextual changes of Smad partners remained undefined. Here, we demonstrate that 14-3-3ζ destabilizes p53, a Smad partner in premalignant mammary epithelial cells, by downregulating 14-3-3σ, thus turning off TGF-β's tumor suppression function. Conversely, 14-3-3ζ stabilizes Gli2 in breast cancer cells, and Gli2 partners with Smads to activate PTHrP and promote TGF-β-induced bone metastasis. The 14-3-3ζ-driven contextual changes of Smad partners from p53 to Gli2 may serve as biomarkers and therapeutic targets of TGF-β-mediated cancer progression.