Epidemiological studies and animal models suggest an association between high levels of dietary fat intake and an increased risk of breast cancer. Cancer progression requires the development of metastasis, which is characterized by an increase in cell motility and invasion. Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a process, by which epithelial cells are transdifferentiated to a more mesenchymal state. A similar process takes place during tumor progression, when carcinoma cells stably or transiently lose epithelial polarities and acquire a mesenchymal phenotype. Arachidonic acid (AA) is a fatty acid that mediates cellular processes, such as cell survival, angiogenesis, chemotaxis, mitogenesis, migration and apoptosis. However, the role of AA on the EMT process in human mammary epithelial cells remains to be studied. We demonstrate here that AA promotes an increase in vimentin and N-cadherin expression, MMP-9 secretion, a decrease in E-cadherin junctional levels, and the activation of FAK, Src and NF-kappaB in MCF10A cells. Furthermore, AA also promotes cell migration in an Src kinase activity-dependent fashion. In conclusion, our results demonstrate, for the first time, that AA promotes an epithelial-to-mesenchymal-like transition in MCF10A human mammary non-tumorigenic epithelial cells.
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