Analysis of Cellular EMT States Using Molecular Biology and High Resolution FISH Labeling

Noémie Kempf, Fatima Moutahir, Isabelle Goiffon, Sylvain Cantaloube, Kerstin Bystricky, Anne-Claire Lavigne
Methods in Molecular Biology 2021, 2179: 353-383
Metastasis results from the ability of cancer cells to grow and to spread beyond the primary tumor to distant organs. Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT), a fundamental developmental process, is reactivated in cancer cells, and causes epithelial properties to evolve into mesenchymal and invasive ones. EMT changes cellular characteristics between two distinct states, yet, the process is not binary but rather reflects a broad spectrum of partial EMT states in which cells exhibit various degrees of intermediate epithelial and mesenchymal phenotypes. EMT is a complex multistep process that involves cellular reprogramming through numerous signaling pathways, alterations in gene expression, and changes in chromatin morphology. Therefore, expression of key proteins, including cadherins, occludin, or vimentin must be precisely regulated. A comprehensive understanding of how changes in nuclear organization, at the level of single genes clusters, correlates with these processes during formation of metastatic cells is still missing and yet may help personalized prognosis and treatment in the clinic. Here, we describe methods to correlate physiological and molecular states of cells undergoing an EMT process with chromatin rearrangements observed via FISH labeling of specific domains.

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