Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition promotes tubulin detyrosination and microtentacles that enhance endothelial engagement.

Whipple RA1, Matrone MA, Cho EH, Balzer EM, Vitolo MI, Yoon JR, Ioffe OB, Tuttle KC, Yang J, Martin SS.
Source: Cancer Res
Publication Date: (2010)
Issue: 70(20): 8127-37
Research Area:
Basic Research
Cells used in publication:
Epithelial, mammary, human (HMEC)
Species: human
Tissue Origin: breast
Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is associated with increased breast tumor metastasis; however, the specific mechanisms by which EMT promotes metastasis remain somewhat unclear. Despite the importance of cytoskeletal dynamics during both EMT and metastasis, very few current studies examine the cytoskeleton of detached and circulating tumor cells. Specific posttranslational a-tubulin modifications are critical for adherent cell motility and implicated in numerous pathologies, but also remain understudied in detached cells. We report here that EMT induced through ectopic expression of Twist or Snail promotes a-tubulin detyrosination and the formation of tubulin-based microtentacles in detached HMLEs. Mechanistically, EMT downregulates the tubulin tyrosine ligase enzyme, resulting in an accumulation of detyrosinated a-tubulin (Glu-tubulin), and increases microtentacles that penetrate endothelial layers to facilitate tumor cell reattachment. Confocal microscopy shows that microtentacles are capable of penetrating the junctions between endothelial cells. Suppression of endogenous Twist in metastatic human breast tumor cells is capable of reducing both tubulin detyrosination and microtentacles. Clinical breast tumor samples display high concordance between Glu-tubulin and Twist expression levels, emphasizing the coupling between EMT and tubulin detyrosination in vivo. Coordinated elevation of Twist and Glu-tubulin at invasive tumor fronts, particularly within ductal carcinoma in situ samples, establishes that EMT-induced tubulin detyrosination occurs at the earliest stages of tumor invasion. These data support a novel model where the EMT that occurs during tumor invasion downregulates tubulin tyrosine ligase, increasing a-tubulin detyrosination and promoting microtentacles that could enhance the reattachment of circulating tumor cells to the vascular endothelium during metastasis.