Mesenchymal-epithelial transition in sarcomas is controlled by the combinatorial expression of microRNA 200s and GRHL2

Jason A. Somarelli, Samantha Shetler, Mohit K. Jolly, Xueyang Wang, Suzanne Bartholf Dewitt, Alexander J. Hish, Shivee Gilja, William C. Eward, Kathryn E. Ware, Herbert Levine, Andrew J. Armstrong, Mariano A. Garcia-Blanco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Phenotypic plasticity involves a process in which cells transiently acquire phenotypic traits of another lineage. Two commonly studied types of phenotypic plasticity are epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET). In carcinomas, EMT drives invasion and metastatic dissemination, while MET is proposed to play a role in metastatic colonization. Phenotypic plasticity in sarcomas is not well studied; however, there is evidence that a subset of sarcomas undergo an MET-like phenomenon. While the exact mechanisms by which these transitions occur remain largely unknown, it is likely that some of the same master regulators that drive EMT and MET in carcinomas also act in sarcomas. In this study, we combined mathematical models with bench experiments to identify a core regulatory circuit that controls MET in sarcomas. This circuit comprises the microRNA 200 (miR-200) family, ZEB1, and GRHL2. Interestingly, combined expression of miR-200s and GRHL2 further upregulates epithelial genes to induce MET. This effect is phenocopied by downregulation of either ZEB1 or the ZEB1 cofactor, BRG1. In addition, an MET gene expression signature is prognostic for improved overall survival in sarcoma patients. Together, our results suggest that a miR-200, ZEB1, GRHL2 gene regulatory network may drive sarcoma cells to a more epithelial- like state and that this likely has prognostic relevance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2503-2513
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Issue number19
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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