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      Dynamics of Phenotypic Heterogeneity Associated with EMT and Stemness during Cancer Progression

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          Genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity contribute to the generation of diverse tumor cell populations, thus enhancing cancer aggressiveness and therapy resistance. Compared to genetic heterogeneity, a consequence of mutational events, phenotypic heterogeneity arises from dynamic, reversible cell state transitions in response to varying intracellular/extracellular signals. Such phenotypic plasticity enables rapid adaptive responses to various stressful conditions and can have a strong impact on cancer progression. Herein, we have reviewed relevant literature on mechanisms associated with dynamic phenotypic changes and cellular plasticity, such as epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) and cancer stemness, which have been reported to facilitate cancer metastasis. We also discuss how non-cell-autonomous mechanisms such as cell–cell communication can lead to an emergent population-level response in tumors. The molecular mechanisms underlying the complexity of tumor systems are crucial for comprehending cancer progression, and may provide new avenues for designing therapeutic strategies.

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          Evolution of the cancer stem cell model.

          Genetic analyses have shaped much of our understanding of cancer. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that cancer cells display features of normal tissue organization, where cancer stem cells (CSCs) can drive tumor growth. Although often considered as mutually exclusive models to describe tumor heterogeneity, we propose that the genetic and CSC models of cancer can be harmonized by considering the role of genetic diversity and nongenetic influences in contributing to tumor heterogeneity. We offer an approach to integrating CSCs and cancer genetic data that will guide the field in interpreting past observations and designing future studies. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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            Poised chromatin at the ZEB1 promoter enables breast cancer cell plasticity and enhances tumorigenicity.

            The recent discovery that normal and neoplastic epithelial cells re-enter the stem cell state raised the intriguing possibility that the aggressiveness of carcinomas derives not from their existing content of cancer stem cells (CSCs) but from their proclivity to generate new CSCs from non-CSC populations. Here, we demonstrate that non-CSCs of human basal breast cancers are plastic cell populations that readily switch from a non-CSC to CSC state. The observed cell plasticity is dependent on ZEB1, a key regulator of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition. We find that plastic non-CSCs maintain the ZEB1 promoter in a bivalent chromatin configuration, enabling them to respond readily to microenvironmental signals, such as TGFβ. In response, the ZEB1 promoter converts from a bivalent to active chromatin configuration, ZEB1 transcription increases, and non-CSCs subsequently enter the CSC state. Our findings support a dynamic model in which interconversions between low and high tumorigenic states occur frequently, thereby increasing tumorigenic and malignant potential. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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              Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition in Cancer: Parallels Between Normal Development and Tumor Progression

              From the earliest stages of embryonic development, cells of epithelial and mesenchymal origin contribute to the structure and function of developing organs. However, these phenotypes are not always permanent, and instead, under the appropriate conditions, epithelial and mesenchymal cells convert between these two phenotypes. These processes, termed Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT), or the reverse Mesenchymal-Epithelial Transition (MET), are required for complex body patterning and morphogenesis. In addition, epithelial plasticity and the acquisition of invasive properties without the full commitment to a mesenchymal phenotype are critical in development, particularly during branching morphogenesis in the mammary gland. Recent work in cancer has identified an analogous plasticity of cellular phenotypes whereby epithelial cancer cells acquire mesenchymal features that permit escape from the primary tumor. Because local invasion is thought to be a necessary first step in metastatic dissemination, EMT and epithelial plasticity are hypothesized to contribute to tumor progression. Similarities between developmental and oncogenic EMT have led to the identification of common contributing pathways, suggesting that the reactivation of developmental pathways in breast and other cancers contributes to tumor progression. For example, developmental EMT regulators including Snail/Slug, Twist, Six1, and Cripto, along with developmental signaling pathways including TGF-β and Wnt/β-catenin, are misexpressed in breast cancer and correlate with poor clinical outcomes. This review focuses on the parallels between epithelial plasticity/EMT in the mammary gland and other organs during development, and on a selection of developmental EMT regulators that are misexpressed specifically during breast cancer.

                Author and article information

                J Clin Med
                J Clin Med
                Journal of Clinical Medicine
                25 September 2019
                October 2019
                : 8
                : 10
                [1 ]Centre for BioSystems Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560012, India
                [2 ]Cancer Research Program, IMIM (Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute), 08003 Barcelona, Spain
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: mkjolly@ 123456iisc.ac.in (M.K.J.); acelia@ 123456imim.es (T.C.-T.)
                © 2019 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).



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