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Exp Cell Res. 2010 Feb 15;316(4):554-67. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2009.11.020. Epub 2009 Dec 16.

VEGF elicits epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in prostate intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN)-like cells via an autocrine loop.

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Laboratory of Novel Therapeutic Targets, Division of Oncology, Center for Applied Medical Research (CIMA), University of Navarra, Avda. Pio XII, 55, 31008 Pamplona, Spain.


Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is overexpressed during the transition from prostate intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN) to invasive carcinoma. We have mimicked such a process in vitro using the PIN-like C3(1)/Tag-derived Pr-111 cell line, which expresses low levels of VEGF and exhibits very low tumorigenicity in vivo. Elevated expression of VEGF164 in Pr-111 cells led to a significant increase in tumorigenicity, invasiveness, proliferation rates and angiogenesis. Moreover, VEGF164 induced strong changes in cell morphology and cell transcriptome through an autocrine mechanism, with changes in TGF-beta1- and cytoskeleton-related pathways, among others. Further analysis of VEGF-overexpressing Pr-111 cells or following exogenous addition of recombinant VEGF shows acquisition of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) features, with an increased expression of mesenchymal markers, such as N-cadherin, Snail1, Snail2 (Slug) and vimentin, and a decrease in E-cadherin. Administration of VEGF led to changes in TGF-beta1 signaling, including reduction of Smad7 (TGF-beta inhibitory Smad), increase in TGF-betaR-II, and translocation of phospho-Smad3 to the nucleus. Our results suggest that increased expression of VEGF in malignant cells during the transition from PIN to invasive carcinoma leads to EMT through an autocrine loop, which would promote tumor cell invasion and motility. Therapeutic blockade of VEGF/TGF-beta1 in PIN lesions might impair not only tumor angiogenesis, but also the early dissemination of malignant cells outside the epithelial layer.

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