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- Journal of The Royal Society Interface
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- National Science Foundation
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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
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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.