REVIEW | doi:10.20944/preprints202005.0284.v1
Subject: Life Sciences, Other Keywords: hypoxia; HIF-1α; partial EMT; collective migration; inflammatory breast cancer; E-cadherin; metastasis
Online: 17 May 2020 (08:19:42 CEST)
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a cellular biological process involved in migration of primary cancer cells to secondary sites facilitating metastasis. Besides, EMT also confers properties such as stemness, drug resistance and immune evasion which can aid a successful colonization at the distant site. EMT is not a binary process; recent evidence suggests that cells in partial EMT or hybrid E/M phenotype(s) can have enhanced stemness and drug resistance as compared to those undergoing a complete EMT. Moreover, partial EMT enables collective migration of cells as clusters of circulating tumor cells or emboli, further endorsing that cells in hybrid E/M phenotypes may be the ‘fittest’ for metastasis. Here, we review mechanisms and implications of hybrid E/M phenotypes, including their reported association with hypoxia. Hypoxia-driven activation of HIF-1α can drive EMT. In addition, cyclic hypoxia, as compared to acute or chronic hypoxia, shows the highest levels of active HIF-1α and can augment cancer aggressiveness to a greater extent, including enriching for a partial EMT phenotype. We also discuss how metastasis is influenced by hypoxia, partial EMT and collective cell migration, and call for a better understanding of interconnections among these mechanisms. We discuss the known regulators of hypoxia, hybrid EMT and collective cell migration and highlight the gaps which needs to be filled for connecting these three axes which will increase our understanding of dynamics of metastasis and help control it more effectively.
REVIEW | doi:10.20944/preprints202207.0031.v1
Subject: Life Sciences, Biophysics Keywords: Cell-state transitions; Phenotypic plasticity; Cancer Stem Cells; Intratumoral heterogeneity; Lamarckian Induction; Drug resistance
Online: 4 July 2022 (04:56:00 CEST)
Intratumoral heterogeneity can exist along multiple axes: Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs)/non-CSCs, drug-sensitive/drug-tolerant states and a spectrum of epithelial-hybrid-mesenchymal phenotypes. Further, these diverse cell-states can switch reversibly among one another, thereby posing a major challenge to therapeutic efficacy. Therefore, understanding the origins of phenotypic plasticity and heterogeneity remains an active area of investigation. While genomic components (mutations, chromosomal instability) driving heterogeneity have been well-studied, recent reports highlight the role of non-genetic mechanisms in enabling both phenotypic plasticity and heterogeneity. Here, we discuss various processes underlying phenotypic plasticity such as stochastic gene expression, chromatin reprogramming, asymmetric cell division and the presence of multiple “attractors”. These processes can facilitate a dynamically evolving cell population such that a subpopulation of (drug-tolerant) cells can survive lethal drug exposure and recapitulate population heterogeneity on drug withdrawal, leading to relapse. These drug-tolerant cells can be both pre-existing and also induced by the drug itself through cell-state reprogramming. The dynamics of cell-state transitions both in absence and presence of the drug can be quantified through mathematical models. Such a dynamical systems approach to elucidating patterns of intratumoral heterogeneity by integrating longitudinal experimental data with mathematical models can help design effective combinatorial and/or sequential therapies for better clinical outcomes.
REVIEW | doi:10.20944/preprints202108.0453.v1
Subject: Keywords: Hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal phenotypes; Collective cell migration; epithelial-mesenchymal heterogeneity; mathematical modeling; cell-state transition; live-cell imaging
Online: 23 August 2021 (14:32:04 CEST)
The Epithelial- Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) is a biological phenomenon associated with explicit phenotypic and molecular changes in cellular traits. Unlike the earlier-held popular belief of it being a binary process, EMT is now thought of as a landscape including diverse hybrid E/M phenotypes manifested by varying degrees of the transition. These hybrid cells can co-express both epithelial and mesenchymal markers and/or functional traits, and can possess the property of collective cell migration, enhanced tumor-initiating ability, and immune/targeted therapy-evasive features, all of which are often associated with worse patient outcomes. These characteristics of the hybrid E/M cells have led to a surge in studies that map their biophysical and biochemical hallmarks that can be helpful in exploiting their therapeutic vulnerabilities. This review discusses recent advances made in investigating hybrid E/M phenotype(s) from diverse biophysical and biochemical aspects by integrating live cell-imaging, cellular morphology quantification and mathematical modeling, and highlights a set of questions that remain unanswered about the dynamics of hybrid E/M states.
REVIEW | doi:10.20944/preprints202104.0415.v1
Subject: Keywords: epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity; stemness; landscape; phenotypic plasticity; cancer stem cells; metastasis
Online: 15 April 2021 (12:57:56 CEST)
Establishing macrometastases at distant organs is a highly challenging process for cancer cells, with extremely high attrition rates. A very small percentage of disseminated cells have the ability to dynamically adapt to their changing micro-environments through reversibly switching to another phenotype, aiding metastasis. Such plasticity can be exhibited along one or more axes – epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity (EMP) and cancer stem cells (CSCs) being the two most studied, and often tacitly assumed to be synonymous. Here, we review the emerging concepts related to EMP and CSCs across multiple cancers. Both processes are multi-dimensional in nature; for instance, EMP can be defined on morphological, molecular and functional changes, which may or may not be synchronized. Similarly, self-renewal, multi-lineage potential, and anoikis and/or therapy resistance may not all occur simultaneously in CSCs. Thus, arriving at rigorous functional definitions for both EMP and CSCs is crucial. These processes are dynamic, reversible, and semi-independent in nature; cells traverse the inter-connected high-dimensional EMP and CSC landscapes in diverse paths, each of which may exhibit a distinct EMP-CSC coupling. Our proposed model offers a potential unifying framework for elucidating the coupled decision-making along these dimensions and highlights a key set of open questions to be answered.
REVIEW | doi:10.20944/preprints202007.0713.v1
Subject: Keywords: Mesenchymal Epithelial Transition; Cellular Reprogramming; OVOL1; OVOL2; Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition
Online: 30 July 2020 (10:21:43 CEST)
OVOL proteins (OVOL1 and OVOL2), vertebrate homologs of Drosophila OVO, are critical regulators of epithelial lineage determination and differentiation during embryonic development in tissues such as kidney, skin, mammary epithelia, testis. OVOL inhibits EMT and can promote MET; moreover, they can regulate the stemness of cancer cells, thus playing an important role during cancer cell metastasis. Due to their central role in differentiation and maintenance of epithelial lineage, OVOL overexpression has been shown to be capable of reprogramming fibroblasts to epithelial cells. Here, we review the roles of OVOL mediated epithelial differentiation across multiple contexts – embryonic development, cancer progression, and cellular reprogramming.
REVIEW | doi:10.20944/preprints201705.0129.v1
Subject: Life Sciences, Biophysics Keywords: cell fate decision; cancer attractors; gene network dynamics; EMT; drug resistance; intrinsically disordered proteins
Online: 17 May 2017 (06:25:17 CEST)
Waddington’s epigenetic landscape, a famous metaphor in developmental biology, depicts how a stem cell progresses from an undifferentiated phenotype to a differentiated one. The concept of “landscape” in the context of dynamical system theory represents a high-dimensional cell state space, in which each cell phenotype is considered as an “attractor” that is determined by interactions among multiple variables (molecular players), and is buffered against environmental fluctuations. Further, biological noise is thought to play an important role during these cell-fate decisions and in fact controls transitions between different phenotypes. Here, we discuss these phenotypic transitions in cancer from a dynamical systems perspective and invoke the concept of “cancer attractors” – hidden stable states of the underlying regulatory network that are not occupied by normal cells. Using epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), cancer stem-like properties, metabolic reprogramming and the emergence of drug/hormone resistance as examples, we illustrate how phenotypic plasticity in cancer cells enables them to acquire hybrid phenotypes (such as hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal and hybrid metabolic phenotypes) that tend to be more aggressive and notoriously resilient to drug/hormone treatment. Furthermore, we highlight multiple factors that may give rise to phenotypic plasticity in cancer cells, such as (a) multi-stability or oscillatory behaviors governed by underlying regulatory networks involved in cell-fate decisions in cancer cells, and (b) network rewiring due to conformational dynamics of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) that are highly enriched in cancer cells. We conclude by discussing why a therapeutic approach that promotes ‘recanalization’, i.e. the exit from “cancer attractors” and re-entry into “normal attractors”, is more likely to succeed rather than a conventional approach that targets individual molecules/pathways.
REVIEW | doi:10.20944/preprints202202.0004.v1
Subject: Life Sciences, Biotechnology Keywords: Spatial transcriptomics; Molecular imaging; single-cell RNA-seq; intratumoral heterogeneity
Online: 1 February 2022 (11:08:51 CET)
Intratumoral heterogeneity associates with more aggressive disease progression and worse patient outcomes. Understanding the reasons enabling the emergence of such heterogeneity remains incomplete, which restricts our ability to manage it from a therapeutic perspective. Technological advancements such as high-throughput molecular imaging, single-cell omics and spatial transcriptomics now allow recording the patterns of spatiotemporal heterogeneity in a longitudinal manner, thus offering insights into the multi-scale dynamics of its evolution. Here, we review latest technological trends and biological insights from molecular diagnostics as well as spatial transcriptomics, both of which have witnessed a burgeoning growth in recent past in terms of mapping heterogeneity within tumor cell types as well as stromal constitution. We also discuss ongoing challenges, indicating possible ways to integrate insights across these methods to have a systems-level spatiotemporal map of heterogeneity in each tumor, and a more systematic investigation of implications of heterogeneity for the patient outcomes.
REVIEW | doi:10.20944/preprints202109.0432.v1
Subject: Keywords: Non-genetic heterogeneity; multistability; drug-tolerant persisters; phenotypic plasticity; biological noise; epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity; PAGE4
Online: 24 September 2021 (12:44:34 CEST)
Despite identical genetic constitution, a cancer cell population can exhibit phenotypic variations termed as non-genetic/non-mutational heterogeneity. Such heterogeneity – a ubiquitous nature of biological systems – has been implicated in metastasis, therapy resistance and tumour relapse. Here, we review the evidence for existence, sources and implications of non-genetic heterogeneity in multiple cancer types. Stochasticity/ noise in transcription, protein conformation and/or external microenvironment can underlie such heterogeneity. Moreover, the existence of multiple possible cell states (phenotypes) as a consequence of the emergent dynamics of gene regulatory networks may enable reversible cell-state transitions (phenotypic plasticity) that can facilitate adaptive drug resistance and higher metastatic fitness. Finally, we highlight how computational and mathematical models can drive a better understanding of non-genetic heterogeneity and how a systems-level approach integrating mathematical modelling and in vitro/in vivo experiments can map the diverse phenotypic repertoire, and identify therapeutic vulnerabilities of an otherwise clonal cell population.
REVIEW | doi:10.20944/preprints202105.0779.v1
Subject: Biology, Anatomy & Morphology Keywords: Lineage Plasticity; Tumor Progression; Metastasis; Therapy Resistance; Epithelial-Mesenchymal Plasticity
Online: 31 May 2021 (13:48:08 CEST)
Lineage plasticity, the switching of cells from one lineage to another has been recognized to be a cardinal property essential for embryonic development, tissue repair and homeostasis. However, such a highly regulated process goes awry when cancer cells exploit this inherent ability to their advantage, resulting in tumorigenesis, relapse, metastasis and therapy resistance. In this review, we summarize our current understanding on the role of lineage plasticity in tumor progression and therapeutic resistance in multiple cancers. Lineage plasticity can be triggered by treatment itself and is reported across various solid as well as liquid tumors. Here we focus on the importance of lineage switching in tumor progression and therapeutic resistance of solid tumors such as the prostate, lung, hepatocellular and colorectal carcinoma and the myeloid and lymphoid lineage switch observed in leukemias. Besides this, we also discuss the role of Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) in facilitating the lineage switch in biphasic cancers such as aggressive carcinosarcomas. We also discuss the mechanisms involved, current therapeutic approaches and challenges that lie ahead in taming the scourge of lineage plasticity in cancer.
REVIEW | doi:10.20944/preprints201912.0388.v1
Subject: Biology, Other Keywords: cancer stem cells; plasticity; Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition; metastasis; microenvironment
Online: 29 December 2019 (14:51:39 CET)
Intratumoral heterogeneity is a major ongoing challenge in the effective therapeutic targeting of cancer. Accumulating evidence suggests that a fraction of cells within a tumor termed Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs) are primarily responsible for this diversity resulting in therapeutic resistance and metastasis. Adding to this complexity, recent studies have shown that there can be different subpopulations of CSCs with varying biochemical and biophysical traits resulting in varied dissemination and drug-resistance potential. Moreover, cancer cells can exhibit a high level of plasticity or the ability to dynamically switch between CSC and non-CSC states or among different subsets of CSCs. The molecular mechanisms underlying such plasticity has been under extensive investigation and the trans-differentiation process of Epithelial to Mesenchymal transition (EMT) has been identified as a major contributing factor. Besides genetic and epigenetic factors, CSC plasticity is also shaped by non-cell-autonomous effects such as the tumor microenvironment. In this review, we discuss the recent developments in understanding CSC plasticity in tumor progression at biochemical and biophysical levels, and the latest in silico approaches being taken for characterizing cancer cell plasticity with implications in improving existing therapeutic approaches.
REVIEW | doi:10.20944/preprints202111.0250.v1
Online: 15 November 2021 (11:07:48 CET)
Metastasis is the leading cause of cancer death and can be realized through the phenomenon of tumor cell fusion. The fusion of tumor cells with other tumor or normal cells leads to the appearance of tumor hybrid cells (THCs) exhibiting novel properties such as increased proliferation and migration, drug resistance, decreased apoptosis rate and avoiding immune surveillance. Experimental studies showed the association of THCs with a high frequency of cancer metastasis; however, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Many other questions also remain to be answered: the role of genetic alterations in tumor cell fusion, the molecular landscape of cells after fusion, the lifetime and fate of different THCs, and the specific markers of THCs, and their correlation with various cancers and clinicopathological parameters. In this review, we discuss the factors and potential mechanisms involved in the occurrence of THCs, the types of THCs, and their role in cancer drug resistance and metastasis, as well as potential therapeutic approaches for the prevention and targeting of tumor cell fusion. In conclusion, we emphasize the current knowledge gaps in the biology of THCs that should be addressed to develop highly effective therapeutics and strategies for metastasis suppression.
Subject: Biology, Anatomy & Morphology Keywords: epithelial mesenchymal plasticity (EMP); epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT); mesenchymal epithelial transition (MET); E/M Hybrid; partial EMT; computational biology; mathematical modeling; cancer
Online: 10 February 2021 (15:04:19 CET)
The epithelial-mesenchymal (E/M) hybrid state has emerged as an important mediator of elements of cancer progression, facilitated by epithelial mesenchymal plasticity (EMP). We review here evidence for the presence, prognostic significance, and therapeutic potential of the E/M hybrid state in carcinoma. We further assess modelling predictions and validation studies to demonstrate stabilised E/M hybrid states along the spectrum of EMP, as well as computational approaches for characterising and quantifying EMP phenotypes, with particular attention to the emerging realm of single-cell approaches through RNA sequencing and protein-based techniques.
ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints202005.0195.v1
Subject: Life Sciences, Cell & Developmental Biology Keywords: Placenta; trophoblast; SARS-CoV-2; Coronaviruses; COVID-19; Single cell RNAseq; scRNA-seq; ACE2; TMPRSS2; CD147; CTSL; inflammation
Online: 11 May 2020 (12:50:48 CEST)
Infection by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) results in the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19, which has posed a serious threat globally. Infection of SARS-CoV-2 during pregnancy is associated with complications like preterm labor and premature rupture of membranes; a proportion of neonates born to the infected mothers are also positive for the virus. During pregnancy, the placental barrier protects the fetus from pathogens and ensures healthy development. However, whether or not SARS-CoV-2 can infect the placenta is unknown. Herein, utilizing single-cell RNA-seq data, we report that the SARS-CoV-2 binding receptor ACE2 and the S protein priming protease TMPRSS2 are co-expressed by a subset of syncytiotrophoblasts (STB) in the first trimester and extra villous trophoblasts (EVT) in the second trimester human placenta. The ACE2- and TMPRSS2-positive (ACE2+TMPRSS2+) placental subsets express mRNA for proteins involved in viral budding and replication. These cells also express mRNA for proteins that interact with SARS-CoV-2 structural and non-structural proteins in the host cells. We also discovered unique signatures of genes in ACE2+TMPRSS2+ STBs and EVTs. The ACE2+TMPRSS2+ STBs are highly differentiated cells and express genes involved mitochondrial metabolism and glucose transport. The second trimester ACE2+TMPRSS2+ EVTs are enriched for markers of endovascular trophoblasts. Further, both these subtypes abundantly expressed genes in Toll like receptor pathway, the second trimester EVTs (but not first trimester STBs) are also enriched for component of the JAK-STAT pathway that drive inflammation. To conclude, herein we uncovered the cellular targets for SARS-CoV-2 entry and show that these cells can potentially drive viremia in the developing human placenta. Our results provide a basic framework towards understanding the paraphernalia involved in SARS-CoV-2 infections in pregnancy.
REVIEW | doi:10.20944/preprints201904.0206.v1
Subject: Life Sciences, Biophysics Keywords: helial-mesenchymal transition; EMT spectrum; hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal phenotypes; CTC clusters; stemness; immune suppression; EMT metrics; systems biology
Online: 18 April 2019 (08:02:27 CEST)
Cancer cells can acquire a spectrum of stable hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal (E/M) states during epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Cells in these hybrid E/M phenotypes often combine epithelial and mesenchymal features and tend to migrate collectively commonly as small clusters. Such collectively migrating cancer cells play a pivotal role in seeding metastases and their presence in cancer patients indicates an adverse prognostic factor. Moreover, cancer cells in hybrid E/M phenotypes tend to be more associated with stemness which endows them with tumor-initiation ability and therapy resistance. Most recently, cells undergoing EMT have been shown to promote immune suppression for better survival. A systematic understanding of the emergence of hybrid E/M phenotypes and the connection of EMT with stemness and immune suppression would contribute to more effective therapeutic strategies. In this review, we first discuss recent efforts combining theoretical and experimental approaches to elucidate mechanisms underlying EMT multi-stability (i.e. the existence of multiple stable phenotypes during EMT) and the properties of hybrid E/M phenotypes. Following we discuss non-cell-autonomous regulation of EMT by cell cooperation and extracellular matrix. Afterwards, we discuss various metrics that can be used to quantify EMT spectrum. We further describe possible mechanisms underlying the formation of clusters of circulating tumor cells. Last but not least, we summarize recent systems biology analysis of the role of EMT in the acquisition of stemness and immune suppression.
ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints202202.0133.v1
Subject: Biology, Other Keywords: Intratumoral heterogeneity; Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC); Macc1; Phenotypic heteroge-neity
Online: 9 February 2022 (10:40:54 CET)
The triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) subtype is one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer that has poor clinical outcome and still remains as an unmet clinical challenge. Accumulating evidence suggests that intratumoral heterogeneity or the presence of phenotypically heterogeneous cell populations within a tumor plays a crucial role in chemoresistance, tumor progression and metastasis. Increased understanding of the molecular regulators of intratumoral heterogeneity will enable the development of effective therapeutic strategies in TNBC. We have identified a molecular mediator involved in intratumoral heterogeneity in breast cancer using an unbiased approach. We isolated two heterogeneous tumor cell populations from the 4T1 TNBC tumor model and phenotypic characterization revealed that the cells are distinct in terms of their morphology, proliferation and self-renewal ability in vitro; as well as primary tumor formation and metastatic potential in vivo. Further, RNA sequencing on both cell populations was performed to identify the molecular mediators underlying this heterogeneity. Bioinformatic analysis performed on the differentially expressed genes along with the Kaplan-Meier survival analysis in TNBC patients identified Metastasis associated colon cancer 1 (Macc1) as the top candidate gene mediating the aggressive phenotype. The role of Macc1 in regulating the proliferative phenotype was validated using siRNA mediated gene knockdown. The role of Macc1 in the aggressive cancer cell phenotypes and disease progression is being studied further using a small molecule transcriptional inhibitor of Macc1 in cell line and animal models, thus increasing our understanding of the molecular underpinnings of intratumoral heterogeneity in breast cancer that is critical to the improvement in the treatment of women currently living with the highly aggressive TNBC subtype.