The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is an essential component of embryonic development, tissue remodeling, and wound repair. In addition, many epithelial tumors, including colorectal carcinomas, appear to undergo this transition that may facilitate their invasion. Using a novel model of EMT in colon carcinoma in which the inflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha accelerates this TGF-beta directed process, we report that TNF-alpha stimulation upregulates expression of the chemokine IL-8, and that this upregulation is dependent on the transcription factor NF-kappaB. Significantly, this effect is not merely an inflammatory response by these colon carcinoma cells because IL-8 expression is induced in cells undergoing a TGF-beta-driven EMT in the absence of exogenous TNF-alpha. During the EMT, a concomitant increase in the chemokine receptor CXCR-1, but not CXCR-2, also occurs. Moreover, both IL-8 and CXCR-1 function in the chemokinetic and chemotactic migration of colon carcinoma cells as assessed by antibody inhibition studies. These studies establish that the regulated expression of a specific chemokine and its receptor are linked to the EMT and they provide a biochemical framework for understanding the mechanisms by which the EMT promotes migration.
Copyright 2004 Elsevier Inc.