Master regulators of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition such as Twist1 and Snail1 have been implicated in invasiveness and the generation of cancer stem cells, but their persistent activity inhibits stem-cell-like properties and the outgrowth of disseminated cancer cells into macroscopic metastases. Here, we show that Twist1 activation primes a subset of mammary epithelial cells for stem-cell-like properties, which only emerge and stably persist following Twist1 deactivation. Consequently, when cells undergo a mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET), they do not return to their original epithelial cell state, evidenced by acquisition of invasive growth behavior and a distinct gene expression profile. These data provide an explanation for how transient Twist1 activation may promote all steps of the metastatic cascade; i.e., invasion, dissemination, and metastatic outgrowth at distant sites.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.