Background: Evidence shows that the anticancer effects of microtubule targeting agents are not due solely to their antimitotic activities but also their ability to impair microtubule-dependent oncogenic signalling. Methods: The effects of microtubule targeting agents on regulators of TGF-β-induced epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) were evaluated in breast cancer cell lines using high content imaging, gene and protein expression, siRNA-mediated knockdown and chromatin immunoprecipitation. Results: Microtubule targeting agents rapidly and differentially alter the expression of Snail and Slug, key EMT-promoting transcription factors in breast cancer. Eribulin, vinorelbine and in some cases, ixabepalone, but not paclitaxel, inhibited TGF-β-mediated Snail expression by impairing the microtubule-dependent nuclear localisation of Smad2/3. In contrast, eribulin and vinorelbine promoted a TGF-β-independent increase in Slug in cells with low Smad4. Mechanistically, microtubule depolymerisation induces c-Jun, which consequently increases Slug expression in cells with low Smad4. Conclusion: These results identify a mechanism by which eribulin-mediated microtubule disruption could reverse EMT in preclinical models and in patients. Furthermore, high Smad4 levels could serve as a biomarker of this response. This study highlights that microtubule targeting drugs can exert distinct effects on the expression of EMT-regulating transcription factors and that identifying differences among these drugs could lead to their more rational use.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research