Autocrine TGF-β/ZEB/microRNA-200 signal transduction drives epithelial-mesenchymal transition: Kinetic models predict minimal drug dose to inhibit metastasis

Cell Signal. 2016 Aug;28(8):861-70. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2016.03.002. Epub 2016 Mar 19.


The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is the crucial step that cancer cells must pass before they can undergo metastasis. The transition requires the activity of complex functional networks that downregulate properties of the epithelial phenotype and upregulate characteristics of the mesenchymal phenotype. The networks frequently include reciprocal repressions between transcription factors (TFs) driving the EMT and microRNAs (miRs) inducing the reverse process, termed mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET). In this work we develop four kinetic models that are based on experimental data and hypotheses describing how autocrine transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) signal transduction induces and maintains an EMT by upregulating the TFs ZEB1 and ZEB2 which repress the expression of the miR-200b/c family members. After successful model calibration we validate our models by predicting requirements for the maintenance of the mesenchymal steady state which agree with experimental data. Finally, we apply our validated kinetic models for the design of experiments in cancer therapy. We demonstrate how steady state properties of the kinetic models, combined with data from tumor-derived cell lines of individual patients, can predict the minimal amount of an inhibitor to induce a MET.

Keywords: Design of experiments; Epithelial-mesenchymal transition; Interaction between ZEB and microRNA-200; Kinetic model; Metastasis inhibition.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autocrine Communication* / drug effects
  • Benzodioxoles / pharmacology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dogs
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition* / drug effects
  • Gene Regulatory Networks / drug effects
  • Imidazoles / pharmacology
  • Kinetics
  • Madin Darby Canine Kidney Cells
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Pyridines / pharmacology
  • Receptor, Transforming Growth Factor-beta Type I
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Signal Transduction* / drug effects
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism*
  • Zinc Finger E-box-Binding Homeobox 1 / metabolism


  • 2-(5-benzo(1,3)dioxol-5-yl-2-tert-butyl-3H-imidazol-4-yl)-6-methylpyridine hydrochloride
  • Benzodioxoles
  • Imidazoles
  • MicroRNAs
  • Pyridines
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Zinc Finger E-box-Binding Homeobox 1
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Receptor, Transforming Growth Factor-beta Type I