Dynamic transcription factor networks in epithelial-mesenchymal transition in breast cancer models

Anaar Siletz, Michael Schnabel, Ekaterina Kniazeva, Andrew J Schumacher, Seungjin Shin, Jacqueline S Jeruss, Lonnie D Shea
PloS One 2013, 8 (4): e57180
The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a complex change in cell differentiation that allows breast carcinoma cells to acquire invasive properties. EMT involves a cascade of regulatory changes that destabilize the epithelial phenotype and allow mesenchymal features to manifest. As transcription factors (TFs) are upstream effectors of the genome-wide expression changes that result in phenotypic change, understanding the sequential changes in TF activity during EMT provides rich information on the mechanism of this process. Because molecular interactions will vary as cells progress from an epithelial to a mesenchymal differentiation program, dynamic networks are needed to capture the changing context of molecular processes. In this study we applied an emerging high-throughput, dynamic TF activity array to define TF activity network changes in three cell-based models of EMT in breast cancer based on HMLE Twist ER and MCF-7 mammary epithelial cells. The TF array distinguished conserved from model-specific TF activity changes in the three models. Time-dependent data was used to identify pairs of TF activities with significant positive or negative correlation, indicative of interdependent TF activity throughout the six-day study period. Dynamic TF activity patterns were clustered into groups of TFs that change along a time course of gene expression changes and acquisition of invasive capacity. Time-dependent TF activity data was combined with prior knowledge of TF interactions to construct dynamic models of TF activity networks as epithelial cells acquire invasive characteristics. These analyses show EMT from a unique and targetable vantage and may ultimately contribute to diagnosis and therapy.

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