Histone deacetylase inhibitors reinforce the phenotypical markers of breast epithelial or mesenchymal cancer cells but inhibit their migratory properties

A Wawruszak, E Gumbarewicz, E Okon, W Jeleniewicz, J Czapinski, M Halasa, K Okla, J Smok-Kalwat, A Bocian, Adolfo Rivero Müller, A Stepulak

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDIs) are a group of compounds that exhibit anticancer activity, but their significance and usefulness in breast cancer (BC) treatment are still controversial. The ability of cancer cells to invade and migrate is augmented by the acquisition of a mesenchymal phenotype - a process known as epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Changes in the expression level of different cadherins, so-called cadherin switches, have been used to monitor the EMT process in development and tumor progression, in particular migration and invasion potential. The aim of this study was to analyze the influence of two HDIs - valproic acid (VPA) and vorinostat (SAHA) - on the migration potential of different BC cell types, as well as on EMT, or its reverse process - mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition, progression by means of shift in epithelial and mesenchymal marker expression.Methods: HDI treatment-induced expression of E- and N-cadherin at the mRNA and protein levels was evaluated by qPCR, Western blotting and immunostaining methods, respectively. BC cell proliferation and migration were assessed by BrdU, xCELLigence system and wound-healing assay.Results: VPA and SAHA inhibited the proliferation and migration in a dose- and time-dependent manner, regardless of the BC cell type. Unawares, BC cells having a more mesenchymal phenotype (MDA-MB-468) were found to overexpress N-cadherin, whereas BC lines having an epithelial phenotype (T47D, MCF7) responded to HDI treatment by a significant increase of E-cadherin expression.Discussion: We suggest that HDAC inhibition results in a more relaxed chromatin concomitant to an increase in the expression of already expressing genes.Conclusion: By using multiple cancer cell lines, we conclude that HDI induction or reversal of EMT is not a universal mechanism, yet inhibition of cell migration is, and thus EMT should not be considered as the only measurement for tumor aggressiveness.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)8345–8358
Number of pages14
JournalCancer Management and Research
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • HDIs
  • VPA
  • SAHA
  • EMT

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