Nrf2 Modulates the Hybrid Epithelial/Mesenchymal Phenotype and Notch Signaling During Collective Cancer Migration

Samuel A. Vilchez Mercedes, Federico Bocci, Mona Ahmed, Ian Eder, Ninghao Zhu, Herbert Levine, José N. Onuchic, Mohit Kumar Jolly, Pak Kin Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

Hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal cells (E/M) are key players in aggressive cancer metastasis. It remains a challenge to understand how these cell states, which are mostly non-existent in healthy tissue, become stable phenotypes participating in collective cancer migration. The transcription factor Nrf2, which is associated with tumor progression and resistance to therapy, appears to be central to this process. Here, using a combination of immunocytochemistry, single cell biosensors, and computational modeling, we show that Nrf2 functions as a phenotypic stability factor for hybrid E/M cells by inhibiting a complete epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) during collective cancer migration. We also demonstrate that Nrf2 and EMT signaling are spatially coordinated near the leading edge. In particular, computational analysis of an Nrf2-EMT-Notch network and experimental modulation of Nrf2 by pharmacological treatment or CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing reveal that Nrf2 stabilizes a hybrid E/M phenotype which is maximally observed in the interior region immediately behind the leading edge. We further demonstrate that the Nrf2-EMT-Notch network enhances Dll4 and Jagged1 expression at the leading edge, which correlates with the formation of leader cells and protruding tips. Altogether, our results provide direct evidence that Nrf2 acts as a phenotypic stability factor in restricting complete EMT and plays an important role in coordinating collective cancer migration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number807324
JournalFrontiers in Molecular Biosciences
Volume9
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 8 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry

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