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PLoS One. 2017 May 17;12(5):e0177830. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0177830. eCollection 2017.

Interleukin-like EMT inducer regulates partial phenotype switching in MITF-low melanoma cell lines.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, United States of America.
Hollings Cancer Center, Charleston, SC, United States of America.


ILEI (FAM3C) is a secreted factor that contributes to the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a cell biological process that confers metastatic properties to a tumor cell. Initially, we found that ILEI mRNA is highly expressed in melanoma metastases but not in primary tumors, suggesting that ILEI contributes to the malignant properties of melanoma. While melanoma is not an epithelial cell-derived tumor and does not undergo a traditional EMT, melanoma undergoes a similar process known as phenotype switching in which high (micropthalmia-related transcription factor) MITF expressing (MITF-high) proliferative cells switch to a low expressing (MITF-low) invasive state. We observed that MITF-high proliferative cells express low levels of ILEI (ILEI-low) and MITF-low invasive cells express high levels of ILEI (ILEI-high). We found that inducing phenotype switching towards the MITF-low invasive state increases ILEI mRNA expression, whereas phenotype switching towards the MITF-high proliferative state decreases ILEI mRNA expression. Next, we used in vitro assays to show that knockdown of ILEI attenuates invasive potential but not MITF expression or chemoresistance. Finally, we used gene expression analysis to show that ILEI regulates several genes involved in the MITF-low invasive phenotype including JARID1B, HIF-2α, and BDNF. Gene set enrichment analysis suggested that ILEI-regulated genes are enriched for JUN signaling, a known regulator of the MITF-low invasive phenotype. In conclusion, we demonstrate that phenotype switching regulates ILEI expression, and that ILEI regulates partial phenotype switching in MITF-low melanoma cell lines.

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