OVOL guides the epithelial-hybrid-mesenchymal transition
Metastasis involves multiple cycles of Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) and its reverse-MET. Cells can also undergo partial transitions to attain a hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal (E/M) phenotype that has maximum cellular plasticity and allows migration of Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs) as a cluster. Hence, deciphering the molecular players helping to maintain the hybrid E/M phenotype may inform anti-metastasis strategies. Here, we devised a mechanism-based mathematical model to couple the transcription factor OVOL with the core EMT regulatory network miR-200/ZEB that acts as a three-way switch between the E, E/M and M phenotypes. We show that OVOL can modulate cellular plasticity in multiple ways - restricting EMT, driving MET, expanding the existence of the hybrid E/M phenotype and turning both EMT and MET into two-step processes. Our theoretical framework explains the differences between the observed effects of OVOL in breast and prostate cancer, and provides a platform for investigating additional signals during metastasis.asis.
EMT; metastasis; OVOL; partial EMT; cancer systems biology