Scientific reports

Copper depletion inhibits CoCl2-induced aggressive phenotype of MCF-7 cells via downregulation of HIF-1 and inhibition of Snail/Twist-mediated epithelial-mesenchymal transition.

PMID 26174737


Copper, a strictly regulated trace element, is essential for many physiological processes including angiogenesis. Dysregulated angiogenesis has been associated with increased copper in tumors, and thus copper chelators have been used to inhibit tumor angiogenesis. However, it remains unclear whether copper has any effect on epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Using CoCl2-induced EMT of human breast carcinoma MCF-7 cells, we found that TEPA, a copper chelator, inhibited EMT-like cell morphology and cytoskeleton arrangement triggered by CoCl2; decreased the expression of vimentin and fibronectin, markers typical of EMT; inhibited HIF-1 activation and HIF1-α accumulation in nuclear; and down-regulated the expression of hypoxia-associated transcription factors, Snail and Twist1. Moreover, knockdown copper transport protein, Ctr1, also inhibited CoCl2-induced EMT and reversed the mesenchymal phenotype. In EMT6 xenograft mouse models, TEPA administration inhibited the tumor growth and increased mice survival. Immunohistochemical analysis of the xenograft further demonstrated that TEPA administration significantly inhibited tumor angiogenesis, down-regulated hypoxia-induced transcription factors, Snail and Twist1, leading to decreased transactivation of EMT-associated marker genes, vimentin and fibronectin. These results indicate that TEPA inhibits CoCl2-induced EMT most likely via HIF1-α-Snail/Twist signaling pathway, and copper depletion may be exploited as a therapeutic for breast cancer.

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