Stability of the hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal phenotype.
ABSTRACT: Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) and its reverse - Mesenchymal to Epithelial Transition (MET) - are hallmarks of cellular plasticity during embryonic development and cancer metastasis. During EMT, epithelial cells lose cell-cell adhesion and gain migratory and invasive traits either partially or completely, leading to a hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal (hybrid E/M) or a mesenchymal phenotype respectively. Mesenchymal cells move individually, but hybrid E/M cells migrate collectively as observed during gastrulation, wound healing, and the formation of tumor clusters detected as Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs). Typically, the hybrid E/M phenotype has largely been tacitly assumed to be transient and 'metastable'. Here, we identify certain 'phenotypic stability factors' (PSFs) such as GRHL2 that couple to the core EMT decision-making circuit (miR-200/ZEB) and stabilize hybrid E/M phenotype. Further, we show that H1975 lung cancer cells can display a stable hybrid E/M phenotype and migrate collectively, a behavior that is impaired by knockdown of GRHL2 and another previously identified PSF - OVOL. In addition, our computational model predicts that GRHL2 can also associate hybrid E/M phenotype with high tumor-initiating potential, a prediction strengthened by the observation that the higher levels of these PSFs may be predictive of poor patient outcome. Finally, based on these specific examples, we deduce certain network motifs that can stabilize the hybrid E/M phenotype. Our results suggest that partial EMT, i.e. a hybrid E/M phenotype, need not be 'metastable', and strengthen the emerging notion that partial EMT, but not necessarily a complete EMT, is associated with aggressive tumor progression.
Project description:Natural Killer (NK) cells suppress tumor initiation and metastasis. Most carcinomas are heterogeneous mixtures of epithelial, mesenchymal and hybrid tumor cells, but the relationships of these phenotypes to NK susceptibility are understood incompletely. Grainyhead-like-2 (GRHL2) is a master programmer of the epithelial phenotype, that is obligatorily down-regulated during experimentally induced Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT). Here, we utilize GRHL2 re-expression to discover unifying molecular mechanisms that link the epithelial phenotype with NK-sensitivity. GRHL2 enhanced the expression of ICAM-1, augmenting NK-target cell synaptogenesis and NK killing of target cells. The expression of multiple interferon response genes, including ICAM1, anti-correlated with EMT. We identified two novel GRHL2-interacting proteins, the histone methyltransferases KMT2C and KMT2D. Mesenchymal-epithelial transition, NK-sensitization and ICAM-1 expression were promoted by GRHL2-KMT2C/D interactions and by GRHL2 inhibition of p300, revealing novel and potentially targetable epigenetic mechanisms connecting the epithelial phenotype with target cell susceptibility to NK killing.
Project description:Until now the essential transcription factor that determines the epithelial phenotype of breast cancer has not been identified and its role in epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and tumor progression remain unclear. Here, by analyzing large expression profiles of human breast cancer cells, we found an extraordinary correlation between the expression of Grainyhead transcription factor Grhl2 and epithelial marker E-cadherin. Knockdown of Grhl2 expression by shRNA in human mammary epithelial cell MCF10A leads to down-regulation of E-cadherin and EMT. Grhl2 is down-regulated in disseminated cancer cells that have undergone EMT, and over-expression of Grhl2 is sufficient to induce epithelial gene expression. Large clinical datasets reveal that expression of Grhl2 is significantly associated with poor relapse free survival and increased risk of metastasis in breast cancer patients. In mouse models, over-expression of Grhl2 significantly promotes tumor growth and metastasis. Further testing of several Grhl2 regulated genes leads to the same conclusions that the tumorigenic and metastatic potentials of tumor cells are linked to epithelial phenotype but not mesenchymal phenotype. In conclusion, our findings indicate that Grhl2 plays an essential role in the determination of epithelial phenotype of breast cancers, EMT and tumor progression.
Project description:Previously, we have identified the Grainyhead transcription factor 2 gene (GRHL2) as notably hypomethylated in high-grade (HG) serous epithelial ovarian tumors, compared with normal ovarian tissues. GRHL2 is known for its functions in normal tissue development and wound healing. In the context of cancer, the role of GRHL2 is still ambiguous as both tumorigenic and tumor suppressive functions have been reported for this gene, although a role of GRHL2 in maintaining the epithelial status of cancer cells has been suggested. In this study, we report that GRHL2 is strongly overexpressed in both low malignant potential (LMP) and HG serous epithelial ovarian tumors, which probably correlates with its hypomethylated status. Suppression of the GRHL2 expression led to a sharp decrease in cell proliferation, migration and invasion and induced G1 cell cycle arrest in epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) cells displaying either epithelial (A2780s) or mesenchymal (SKOV3) phenotypes. However, no phenotypic alterations were observed in these EOC cell lines following GRHL2 silencing. Gene expression profiling and consecutive canonical pathway and network analyses confirmed these data, as in both these EOC cell lines, GRHL2 ablation was associated with the downregulation of various genes and pathways implicated in cell growth and proliferation, cell cycle control and cellular metabolism. Taken together, our data are indicative for a strong oncogenic potential of the GRHL2 gene in EOC progression and support recent findings on the role of GRHL2 as one of the major phenotypic stability factors (PSFs) that stabilize the highly aggressive/metastatic hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal (E/M) phenotype of cancer cells.
Project description:Developmental morphogenesis and tumor progression require a transient or stable breakdown of epithelial junctional complexes to permit programmed migration, invasion, and anoikis resistance, characteristics endowed by the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). The epithelial master-regulatory transcription factor Grainyhead-like 2 (GRHL2) suppresses and reverses EMT, causing a mesenchymal-epithelial transition to the default epithelial phenotype. Here we investigated the role of GRHL2 in tubulogenesis of Madin-Darby canine kidney cells, a process requiring transient, partial EMT. GRHL2 was required for cystogenesis, but it suppressed tubulogenesis in response to hepatocyte growth factor. Surprisingly, GRHL2 suppressed this process by inhibiting the histone acetyltransferase coactivator p300, preventing the induction of matrix metalloproteases and other p300-dependent genes required for tubulogenesis. A 13-amino acid region of GRHL2 was necessary for inhibition of p300, suppression of tubulogenesis, and interference with EMT. The results demonstrate that p300 is required for partial or complete EMT occurring in tubulogenesis or tumor progression and that GRHL2 suppresses EMT in both contexts through inhibition of p300.
Project description:Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a biological process by which polarized epithelial cells convert into a mesenchymal phenotype, has been implicated to contribute to the molecular heterogeneity of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). Here we report that a transcription factor--Grainyhead-like 2 (GRHL2) maintains the epithelial phenotype. EOC tumours with lower GRHL2 levels are associated with the Mes/Mesenchymal molecular subtype and a poorer overall survival. shRNA-mediated knockdown of GRHL2 in EOC cells with an epithelial phenotype results in EMT changes, with increased cell migration, invasion and motility. By ChIP-sequencing and gene expression microarray, microRNA-200b/a is identified as the direct transcriptional target of GRHL2 and regulates the epithelial status of EOC through ZEB1 and E-cadherin. Our study demonstrates that loss of GRHL2 increases the levels of histone mark H3K27me3 on promoters and GRHL2-binding sites at miR-200b/a and E-cadherin genes. These findings support GRHL2 as a pivotal gatekeeper of EMT in EOC via miR-200-ZEB1.
Project description:Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in carcinoma cells enhances malignant progression by promoting invasion and survival. EMT is induced by microenvironmental factors, including TGF-? and Wnt agonists, and by the E-box-binding transcription factors Twist, Snail, and ZEB. Grainyhead-like-2 (GRHL2), a member of the mammalian Grainyhead family of wound-healing regulatory transcription factors, suppresses EMT and restores sensitivity to anoikis by repressing ZEB1 expression and inhibiting TGF-? signaling. In this study, we elucidate the functional relationship between GRHL2 and ZEB1 in EMT/MET and tumor biology. At least three homeodomain proteins, Six1, LBX1, and HoxA5, transactivated the ZEB1 promoter, in the case of Six1, through direct protein-promoter interaction. GRHL2 altered the Six1-DNA complex, inhibiting this transactivation. Correspondingly, GRHL2 expression prevented tumor initiation in xenograft assays, sensitized breast cancer cells to paclitaxel, and suppressed the emergence of CD44(high)CD24(low) cells (defining the cancer stem cell phenotype in the cell type studied). GRHL2 was downregulated in recurrent mouse tumors that had evolved to an oncogene-independent, EMT-like state, supporting a role for GRHL2 downregulation in this phenotypic transition, modeling disease recurrence. The combination of TGF-? and Wnt activation repressed GRHL2 expression by direct interaction of ZEB1 with the GRHL2 promoter, inducing EMT. Together, our observations indicate that a reciprocal feedback loop between GRHL2 and ZEB1 controls epithelial versus mesenchymal phenotypes and EMT-driven tumor progression.
Project description:Metastasis remains the cause of over 90% of cancer-related deaths. Cells undergoing metastasis use phenotypic plasticity to adapt to their changing environmental conditions and avoid therapy and immune response. Reversible transitions between epithelial and mesenchymal phenotypes - epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and its reverse mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET) - form a key axis of phenotypic plasticity during metastasis and therapy resistance. Recent studies have shown that the cells undergoing EMT/MET can attain one or more hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal (E/M) phenotypes, the process of which is termed as partial EMT/MET. Cells in hybrid E/M phenotype(s) can be more aggressive than those in either epithelial or mesenchymal state. Thus, it is crucial to identify the factors and regulatory networks enabling such hybrid E/M phenotypes. Here, employing an integrated computational-experimental approach, we show that the transcription factor nuclear factor of activated T-cell (NFATc) can inhibit the process of complete EMT, thus stabilizing the hybrid E/M phenotype. It increases the range of parameters enabling the existence of a hybrid E/M phenotype, thus behaving as a phenotypic stability factor (PSF). However, unlike previously identified PSFs, it does not increase the mean residence time of the cells in hybrid E/M phenotypes, as shown by stochastic simulations; rather it enables the co-existence of epithelial, mesenchymal and hybrid E/M phenotypes and transitions among them. Clinical data suggests the effect of NFATc on patient survival in a tissue-specific or context-dependent manner. Together, our results indicate that NFATc behaves as a non-canonical PSF for a hybrid E/M phenotype.
Project description:Epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) is clinically heterogeneous, comprising different histological and biological subtypes. Multiple studies have implicated epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a biological process by which polarized epithelial cells convert into a mesenchymal phenotype, to contribute significantly to this molecular heterogeneity of EOC. From gene expression analyses of a collection of EMT-characterized EOC cell lines, we found that the expression of the transcription factor Grainyhead-like 2 (GRHL2) correlates with E-cadherin expression and the epithelial phenotype. EOC tumors with lower levels of GRHL2 are associated with the Mes (mesenchymal) molecular subtype and show poorer overall survival in patients. Here, we demonstrate that shRNA-mediated knockdown of GRHL2 in EOC cells with an epithelial phenotype resulted in EMT changes, with increased cell migration, invasion and motility. By ChIP-sequencing and gene expression microarray, we identified a variety of target genes regulated by GRHL2, including protein-coding and non-coding genes. Our data suggest that GRHL2 maintains the epithelial phenotype of EOC cells through the regulatory networks of miR-200b/a, ZEB1 and E-cadherin. These findings support GRHL2 as a crucial player in the molecular heterogeneity of EOC. 7 samples were analyzed (shNon control in duplicates; shGRHL2 #10 in duplicates, shGRHL2 #12 in triplicates)
Project description:Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) has been associated with cancer cell heterogeneity, plasticity and metastasis. It has been the subject of several modeling effort. This logical model of the EMT cellular network aims to assess microenvironmental signals controlling cancer-associated phenotypes amid the EMT continuum. Its outcomes relate to the qualitative degrees of cell adhesions by adherent junctions and focal adhesions, two features affected during EMT. Model attractors recover epithelial, mesenchymal and hybrid phenotypes, and simulations show that hybrid phenotypes may arise through independent molecular paths, involving stringent extrinsic signals.
Of particular interest, model predictions and their experimental validations indicated that: 1) ECM stiffening is a prerequisite for cells overactivating FAK-SRC to upregulate SNAIL1 and acquire a mesenchymal phenotype, and 2) FAK-SRC inhibition of cell-cell contacts through the Receptor Protein Tyrosine Phosphates kappa leads to the acquisition of a full mesenchymal rather than a hybrid phenotype.