skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on January 1, 2024

Title: Epigenetic memory acquired during long-term EMT induction governs the recovery to the epithelial state
Epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) and its reverse mesenchymal–epithelial transition (MET) are critical during embryonic development, wound healing and cancer metastasis. While phenotypic changes during short-term EMT induction are reversible, long-term EMT induction has been often associated with irreversibility. Here, we show that phenotypic changes seen in MCF10A cells upon long-term EMT induction by TGF β need not be irreversible, but have relatively longer time scales of reversibility than those seen in short-term induction. Next, using a phenomenological mathematical model to account for the chromatin-mediated epigenetic silencing of the miR-200 family by ZEB family, we highlight how the epigenetic memory gained during long-term EMT induction can slow the recovery to the epithelial state post-TGF β withdrawal. Our results suggest that epigenetic modifiers can govern the extent and time scale of EMT reversibility and advise caution against labelling phenotypic changes seen in long-term EMT induction as ‘irreversible’.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of The Royal Society Interface
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. null (Ed.)
    The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and the corresponding reverse process, mesenchymalepithelial transition (MET), are dynamic and reversible cellular programs orchestrated by many changes at both biochemical and morphological levels. A recent surge in identifying the molecular mechanisms underlying EMT/MET has led to the development of various mathematical models that have contributed to our improved understanding of dynamics at single-cell and population levels: (a) multi-stability—how many phenotypes can cells attain during an EMT/MET?, (b) reversibility/irreversibility—what time and/or concentration of an EMT inducer marks the “tipping point” when cells induced to undergo EMT cannot revert?, (c) symmetry in EMT/MET—do cells take the same path when reverting as theytook during the induction of EMT?, and (d) non-cell autonomous mechanisms—how does a cell undergoing EMT alter the tendency of its neighbors to undergo EMT? These dynamical traits may facilitate a heterogenous response within a cell population undergoing EMT/MET. Here, we present a few examples of designing different mathematical models that can contribute to decoding EMT/MET dynamics. Key words Mathematical modeling, Epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity, Nongenetic heterogeneity,Multi-stability, Epithelial-mesenchymal heterogeneity 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second deadliest cancer in the US due to its propensity to metastasize. Stromal cells and especially cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) play a critical biophysical role in cancer progression, but the precise pro-metastatic mechanisms are not clear. Activin A, a TGF-β family member, is a strong pro-metastatic cytokine in the context of CRC. Here, we assessed the link between biophysical forces and pro-metastatic signaling by testing the hypothesis that CAF-generated mechanical forces lead to activin A release and associated downstream effects. Consistent with our hypothesis, we first determined that stromal activin A secretion increased with increasing substrate stiffness. Then we found that stromally-secreted activin A induced ligand-dependent CRC epithelial cell migration and epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). In addition, serum activin A levels are significantly increased in metastatic (stage IV) CRC patients (1.558 ng/ml versus 0.4179 ng/ml, p < 0.05). We propose that increased tumor microenvironment stiffness leads to stromal cell-mediated TGF-β family signaling relying on the induction and utilization of activin A signaling.

    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays an important role in many biological processes during development and cancer. The advent of single-cell transcriptome sequencing techniques allows the dissection of dynamical details underlying EMT with unprecedented resolution. Despite several single-cell data analysis on EMT, how cell communicates and regulates dynamics along the EMT trajectory remains elusive. Using single-cell transcriptomic datasets, here we infer the cell–cell communications and the multilayer gene–gene regulation networks to analyze and visualize the complex cellular crosstalk and the underlying gene regulatory dynamics along EMT. Combining with trajectory analysis, our approach reveals the existence of multiple intermediate cell states (ICSs) with hybrid epithelial and mesenchymal features. Analyses on the time-series datasets from cancer cell lines with different inducing factors show that the induced EMTs are context-specific: the EMT induced by transforming growth factor B1 (TGFB1) is synchronous, whereas the EMTs induced by epidermal growth factor and tumor necrosis factor are asynchronous, and the responses of TGF-β pathway in terms of gene expression regulations are heterogeneous under different treatments or among various cell states. Meanwhile, network topology analysis suggests that the ICSs during EMT serve as the signaling in cellular communication under different conditions. Interestingly, our analysis of a mouse skin squamous cell carcinoma dataset also suggests regardless of the significant discrepancy in concrete genes between in vitro and in vivo EMT systems, the ICSs play dominant role in the TGF-β signaling crosstalk. Overall, our approach reveals the multiscale mechanisms coupling cell–cell communications and gene–gene regulations responsible for complex cell-state transitions. 
    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays a critical role in cancer progression, being responsible in many cases for the onset of the metastatic cascade and being integral in the ability of cells to resist drug treatment. Most studies of EMT focus on its induction via chemical signals such as TGF-β or Notch ligands, but it has become increasingly clear that biomechanical features of the microenvironment such as extracellular matrix (ECM) stiffness can be equally important. Here, we introduce a coupled feedback loop connecting stiffness to the EMT transcription factor ZEB1, which acts via increasing the secretion of LOXL2 that leads to increased cross-linking of collagen fibers in the ECM. This increased cross-linking can effectively increase ECM stiffness and increase ZEB1 levels, thus setting a positive feedback loop between ZEB1 and ECM stiffness. To investigate the impact of this non-cell-autonomous effect, we introduce a computational approach capable of connecting LOXL2 concentration to increased stiffness and thereby to higher ZEB1 levels. Our results indicate that this positive feedback loop, once activated, can effectively lock the cells in a mesenchymal state. The spatial-temporal heterogeneity of the LOXL2 concentration and thus the mechanical stiffness also has direct implications for migrating cells that attempt to escape the primary tumor. 
    more » « less
  5. The epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays a critical role during normal development and in cancer progression. EMT is induced by various signaling pathways, including TGF-β, BMP, Wnt–β-catenin, NOTCH, Shh, and receptor tyrosine kinases. In this study, we performed single-cell RNA sequencing on MCF10A cells undergoing EMT by TGF-β1 stimulation. Our comprehensive analysis revealed that cells progress through EMT at different paces. Using pseudotime clustering reconstruction of gene-expression profiles during EMT, we found sequential and parallel activation of EMT signaling pathways. We also observed various transitional cellular states during EMT. We identified regulatory signaling nodes that drive EMT with the expression of important microRNAs and transcription factors. Using a random circuit perturbation methodology, we demonstrate that the NOTCH signaling pathway acts as a key driver of TGF-β–induced EMT. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the gene signatures of pseudotime clusters corresponding to the intermediate hybrid EMT state are associated with poor patient outcome. Overall, this study provides insight into context-specific drivers of cancer progression and highlights the complexities of the EMT process.

    more » « less