Endothelin-1 is required during epithelial to mesenchymal transition in ovarian cancer progression

Laura Rosanò, Francesca Spinella, Valeriana Di Castro, Samantha Decandia, Maria Rita Nicotra, Pier Giorgio Natali, Anna Bagnato
Experimental Biology and Medicine 2006, 231 (6): 1128-31
In a range of human cancers, tumorigenesis is promoted by activation of the endothelin A receptor (ET(A)R)/endothelin-1 (ET-1) axis. ET-1 and ET(A)R are overexpressed in primary and metastatic ovarian carcinomas, and high levels of ET-1 are detectable in patient ascites, suggesting that ET-1 may promote tumor dissemination. Moreover, in these tumors, engagement of ET(A) receptor by ET-1 triggers tumor growth, survival, angiogenesis, and invasiveness. Thus, ET-1 enhances the secretion of matrix metalloproteinases, disrupts intercellular communications, and stimulates cell migration and invasion. Therefore, we investigated the role of the ET-1/ET(A)R autocrine axis in promoting epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) in ovarian tumor cells, a key event in cancer metastasis, in which epithelial cells depolarize, disassemble cell-cell contacts, and adopt an invasive phenotype. Here, we examine the potential role of ET-1 in regulating cell morphology and behavior and epithelial and mesenchymal proteins employing an in vitro 3-D culture system. We found that in 3-D serum-free collagen I gel cultures, HEY and OVCA 433 ovarian carcinoma cells undergo fibroblast-like morphologic changes between 3 and 5 days of ET-1 treatment. In these cells, ET-1 induces loss of adherens and tight-junction protein expression, E-cadherin, beta-catenin, and zonula occludens-1, and gain of N-cadherin and vimentin expression. These results confirm the ability of ET-1 to promote EMT, a metastable process involving sustained loss of epithelial markers and gain of mesenchymal markers. Collectively, these findings provide evidence of a critical role for the ET-1/ET(A)R axis during distinct steps of ovarian carcinoma progression, thus underlining this axis as a potential target in the treatment of ovarian cancer.

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