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Phys Biol. 2019 Jan 18;16(2):025002. doi: 10.1088/1478-3975/aaf8d4.

Testing the gene expression classification of the EMT spectrum.

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Center for Theoretical Biological Physics, Rice University, Houston, TX 77005, United States of America. Program in Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology, Rice University, Houston, TX 77005, United States of America. These authors contributed equally.


The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays a central role in cancer metastasis and drug resistance-two persistent clinical challenges. Epithelial cells can undergo a partial or full EMT, attaining either a hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal (E/M) or mesenchymal phenotype, respectively. Recent studies have emphasized that hybrid E/M cells may be more aggressive than their mesenchymal counterparts. However, mechanisms driving hybrid E/M phenotypes remain largely elusive. Here, to better characterize the hybrid E/M phenotype (s) and tumor aggressiveness, we integrate two computational methods-(a) RACIPE-to identify the robust gene expression patterns emerging from the dynamics of a given gene regulatory network, and (b) EMT scoring metric-to calculate the probability that a given gene expression profile displays a hybrid E/M phenotype. We apply the EMT scoring metric to RACIPE-generated gene expression data generated from a core EMT regulatory network and classify the gene expression profiles into relevant categories (epithelial, hybrid E/M, mesenchymal). This categorization is broadly consistent with hierarchical clustering readouts of RACIPE-generated gene expression data. We also show how the EMT scoring metric can be used to distinguish between samples composed of exclusively hybrid E/M cells and those containing mixtures of epithelial and mesenchymal subpopulations using the RACIPE-generated gene expression data.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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