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Mod Pathol. 2012 Jan;25(1):86-99. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2011.144. Epub 2011 Oct 7.

Epithelial-mesenchymal transition in malignant mesothelioma.

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Department of Diagnostic Medical Sciences and Special Therapies, Surgical Pathology and Cytopathology Unit, University of Padova, Padova, Italy.


Epithelial-mesenchymal transition is a physiopathological process by which epithelial cells acquire mesenchymal shape and properties. Malignant mesothelioma is histologically characterized by the concomitant presence of epithelioid and sarcomatoid features, the latter being associated to worse prognosis, thus suggesting a role of epithelial-mesenchymal transition in this dual phenotype. We studied 109 malignant mesotheliomas (58 epithelioid, 26 sarcomatoid, and 25 biphasic) by immunohistochemistry and qRT-PCR analysis, and demonstrated a substantial switch from epithelial markers (E-cadherin, β-catenin, and cytokeratins 5/6) to mesenchymal markers (N-cadherin, vimentin, α-smooth muscle actin, Snail, Slug, Twist, ZEB1, ZEB2, S100A4, MMP2, and MMP9) through epithelioid to biphasic and sarcomatoid histotypes. In agreement with these findings, the ectopic expression of miR-205 (a repressor of ZEB1 and ZEB2 expression) in MeT-5A (mesothelial cell line), H2452 (an epithelioid malignant mesothelioma cell line) and MSTO-211H (a biphasic malignant mesothelioma cell line) not only induced a significant reduction of ZEB1 and ZEB2 and a consequent up-regulation of E-cadherin gene expression, but also inhibited migration and invasion. Moreover, miR-205 was significantly down-regulated in biphasic and sarcomatoid histotypes (qRT-PCR and in situ hybridization analyses). Collectively, our findings indicate that epithelial-mesenchymal transition has a significant part in the morphological features of malignant mesothelioma. In particular, miR-205 down-regulation correlated significantly with both a mesenchymal phenotype and a more aggressive behavior.

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