Epithelial-mesenchymal transition of ovarian cancer cells is sustained by Rac1 through simultaneous activation of MEK1/2 and Src signaling pathways

D. Fang, H. Chen, J. Y. Zhu, W. Wang, Yong Teng, Hanfei Ding, Q. Jing, S. B. Su, Shuang Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is regarded as a crucial contributing factor to cancer progression. Diverse factors have been identified as potent EMT inducers in ovarian cancer. However, molecular mechanism sustaining EMT of ovarian cancer cells remains elusive. Here we show that the presence of SOS1/EPS8/ABI1 complex is critical for sustained EMT traits of ovarian cancer cells. Consistent with the role of SOS1/EPS8/ABI1 complex as a Rac1-specific guanine nucleotide exchange factor, depleting Rac1 results in the loss of most of mesenchymal traits in mesenchymal-like ovarian cancer cells, whereas expressing constitutively active Rac1 leads to EMT in epithelial-like ovarian cancer cells. With the aid of clinically tested inhibitors targeting various EMT-associated signaling pathways, we show that only combined treatment of mitogen-activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (MEK1/2) and Src inhibitors can abolish constitutively active Rac1-led EMT and mesenchymal traits displayed by mesenchymal-like ovarian cancer cells. Further experiments also reveal that EMT can be induced in epithelial-like ovarian cancer cells by co-expressing constitutively active MEK1 and Src rather than either alone. As the activities of Erk and Src are higher in ovarian cancer cells with constitutively active Rac1, we conclude that Rac1 sustains ovarian cancer cell EMT through simultaneous activation of MEK1/2 and Src signaling pathways. Importantly, we demonstrate that combined use of MEK1/2 and Src inhibitors effectively suppresses development of intraperitoneal xenografts and prolongs the survival of ovarian cancer-bearing mice. This study suggests that cocktail of MEK1/2 and Src inhibitors represents an effective therapeutic strategy against ovarian cancer progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1546-1558
Number of pages13
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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