BACKGROUND. The mechanism of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) could be adopted by tumor cells for migration and invasion. We have reported that ARCaPE human prostate cancer cells undergo EMT-like changes during xenograft growth in athymic mice. METHODS. In this report, we assessed the extent of EMT by tracking changes in cloned ARCaPE cells expressing red fluorescence protein during successive orthotopic prostate tumor formation. Cancer cells with stromal-like morphology were isolated and examined for EMT-like changes. RESULTS. EMT-like morphologic and expression changes were detected after one round of in vivo tumor formation. Importantly, when recovered tumor cells were used in second round xenograft tumor formation, a large fraction of ARCaPE cells showed drastic EMT-like changes, with markedly enlarged cell size and divergent cell shapes similar to those of mesenchymal stromal cells. The morphologic change was accompanied by increased growth and metastasis, as tumor incidence increased while red fluorescent tumor cells could be detected from circulating blood, bone marrow, peritoneal ascites, and lung of the tumor-bearing mice. Recovered clones from these samples had lost epithelial markers but many showed activated stromal marker vimentin expression. The EMT appeared permanent since the newly acquired morphology was sustained after continuous passages. CONCLUSIONS. Results from this study demonstrate that through interaction with the host tumor microenvironment, cancer cells acquire cellular plasticity. During xenograft tumor formation and metastasis, a single clone of cancer cells could yield a heterogeneous population, with a substantial number of tumor cells adopting mesenchymal stroma-like phenotypes.
- Epithelial to mesenchymal transition
- Orthotopic tumor formation
- Prostate cancer progression and metastasis
- Red fluorescence protein
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