The growth of LNCaP, a human prostate adenocarcinoma cell line, and MCF-7, a human breast adenocarcinoma cell line, is initially hormone dependent. We previously demonstrated that LNrho0-8 and MCFrho0, derived from LNCaP and MCF-7 by depleting mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), exhibited hormone-independent growth that led to progressed phenotypes. Here, we demonstrate that LNrho0-8 and MCFrho0 have invasive characters as evaluated by the ability of invasion through the extracellular matrix (ECM) in vitro. In addition, the induction of vimentin and the repression of E-cadherin expression in rho0 cells indicate that they are mesenchymal cells. Since LNrho0-8 and MCFrho0 were derived from epithelial cancer cell lines, LNCaP and MCF-7 must have lost epithelial features and gained the mesenchymal phenotype by epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) during the mtDNA depletion. In the rho0 cell lines, the Raf/MAPK signaling cascade was highly activated together with the expressions of transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) and type I TGF-beta receptor (TGF-betaRI). EMT requires cooperation of TGF-beta signaling with activation of the Raf/MAPK cascade, suggesting that EMT was induced in mtDNA depleted cells resulting in the acquisition of progressive tumor features, such as higher invasiveness and loss of hormone dependent growth. Our results indicate that decreasing mtDNA content induces EMT, enabling the progressive phenotypes observed in cancer.
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