2021 Vol. 12, No. 2

Under normal conditions, cells are in homeostasis. Upon the loss of integrin mediated cell-matrix contact, the structure of the focal adhesion complex, including 4.1N, is destroyed, exposing the FERM domain of 4.1N and accelerating the degradation of 14-3-3 through binding with the FERM domain. Functionally, this decrease in 14-3-3 accumulation promotes anoikis and reduces EMT. On the other hand, the loss of 4.1N activates ROCK signaling and leads entosis induced cell-death resistance. EMT enables cancer cells to acquire a migratory and invasive phenotype and allows them to leave the primary tumor; cell death resistance enables the survival of adherent cells in suspension; cancer cells adhere and proliferate in the new environment; the secondary tumor site can be formed.

“To live a meaningful life, be yourself and make yourself”: Haoyan Jen—a pioneer of China's environmental microbiology
Xin Zhang, Huan Liu
2021, 12(2): 81-83. doi: 10.1007/s13238-020-00781-z
Pan-coronavirus fusion inhibitors as the hope for today and tomorrow
Xinling Wang, Shuai Xia, Yun Zhu, Lu Lu, Shibo Jiang
2021, 12(2): 84-88. doi: 10.1007/s13238-020-00806-7
Role of glycosylation in TGF-β signaling and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in cancer
Jing Zhang, Peter ten Dijke, Manfred Wuhrer, Tao Zhang
2021, 12(2): 89-106. doi: 10.1007/s13238-020-00741-7
Glycosylation is a common posttranslational modification on membrane-associated and secreted proteins that is of pivotal importance for regulating cell functions. Aberrant glycosylation can lead to uncontrolled cell proliferation, cell-matrix interactions, migration and differentiation, and has been shown to be involved in cancer and other diseases. The epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition is a key step in the metastatic process by which cancer cells gain the ability to invade tissues and extravasate into the bloodstream. This cellular transformation process, which is associated by morphological change, loss of epithelial traits and gain of mesenchymal markers, is triggered by the secreted cytokine transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β). TGF-β bioactivity is carefully regulated, and its effects on cells are mediated by its receptors on the cell surface. In this review, we first provide a brief overview of major types of glycans, namely, N-glycans, O-glycans, glycosphingolipids and glycosaminoglycans that are involved in cancer progression. Thereafter, we summarize studies on how the glycosylation of TGF-β signaling components regulates TGF-β secretion, bioavailability and TGF-β receptor function. Then, we review glycosylation changes associated with TGF-β-induced epithelial-tomesenchymal transition in cancer. Identifying and understanding the mechanisms by which glycosylation affects TGF-β signaling and downstream biological responses will facilitate the identification of glycans as biomarkers and enable novel therapeutic approaches.
Research articles
Loss of 4.1N in epithelial ovarian cancer results in EMT and matrix-detached cell death resistance
Dandan Wang, Letian Zhang, Ajin Hu, Yuxiang Wang, Yan Liu, Jing Yang, Ningning Du, Xiuli An, Congying Wu, Congrong Liu
2021, 12(2): 107-127. doi: 10.1007/s13238-020-00723-9
Epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) is one of the leading causes of death from gynecologic cancers and peritoneal dissemination is the major cause of death in patients with EOC. Although the loss of 4.1N is associated with increased risk of malignancy, its association with EOC remains unclear. To explore the underlying mechanism of the loss of 4.1N in constitutive activation of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and matrixdetached cell death resistance, we investigated samples from 268 formalin-fixed EOC tissues and performed various in vitro and in vivo assays. We report that the loss of 4.1N correlated with progress in clinical stage, as well as poor survival in EOC patients. The loss of 4.1N induces EMT in adherent EOC cells and its expression inhibits anoikis resistance and EMT by directly binding and accelerating the degradation of 14-3-3 in suspension EOC cells. Furthermore, the loss of 4.1N could increase the rate of entosis, which aggravates cell death resistance in suspension EOC cells. Moreover, xenograft tumors in nude mice also show that the loss of 4.1N can aggravate peritoneal dissemination of EOC cells. Single-agent and combination therapy with a ROCK inhibitor and a 14-3-3 antagonist can reduce tumor spread to varying degrees. Our results not only define the vital role of 4.1N loss in inducing EMT, anoikis resistance, and entosis-induced cell death resistance in EOC, but also suggest that individual or combined application of 4.1N, 14-3-3 antagonists, and entosis inhibitors may be a promising therapeutic approach for the treatment of EOC.
Metformin inhibits pancreatic cancer metastasis caused by SMAD4 deficiency and consequent HNF4G upregulation
Chengcheng Wang, Taiping Zhang, Quan Liao, Menghua Dai, Junchao Guo, Xinyu Yang, Wen Tan, Dongxin Lin, Chen Wu, Yupei Zhao
2021, 12(2): 128-144. doi: 10.1007/s13238-020-00760-4
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has poor prognosis due to limited therapeutic options. This study examines the roles of genome-wide association study identified PDAC-associated genes as therapeutic targets. We have identified HNF4G gene whose silencing most effectively repressed PDAC cell invasiveness. HNF4G overexpression is induced by the deficiency of transcriptional factor and tumor suppressor SMAD4. Increased HNF4G are correlated with SMAD4 deficiency in PDAC tumor samples and associated with metastasis and poor survival time in xenograft animal model and in patients with PDAC (log-rank P=0.036; HR=1.60, 95% CI=1.03-2.47). We have found that Metformin suppresses HNF4G activity via AMPK-mediated phosphorylation-coupled ubiquitination degradation and inhibits in vitro invasion and in vivo metastasis of PDAC cells with SMAD4 deficiency. Furthermore, Metformin treatment significantly improve clinical outcomes and survival in patients with SMAD4-deficient PDAC (log-rank P=0.022; HR=0.31, 95% CI=0.14-0.68) but not in patients with SMAD4-normal PDAC. Pathway analysis shows that HNF4G may act in PDAC through the cell-cell junction pathway. These results indicate that SMAD4 deficiency-induced overexpression of HNF4G plays a critical oncogenic role in PDAC progression and metastasis but may form a druggable target for Metformin treatment.
FOXO3-engineered human mesenchymal progenitor cells efficiently promote cardiac repair after myocardial infarction
Jinghui Lei, Si Wang, Wang Kang, Qun Chu, Zunpeng Liu, Liang Sun, Yun Ji, Concepcion Rodriguez Esteban, Yan Yao, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, Piu Chan, Guang-Hui Liu, Weiqi Zhang, Moshi Song, Jing Qu
2021, 12(2): 145-151. doi: 10.1007/s13238-020-00779-7
Single-cell transcriptomics of cardiac progenitors reveals functional subpopulations and their cooperative crosstalk in cardiac repair
Lei Gao, Hongjie Zhang, Jingyi Cui, Lijuan Pei, Shiqi Huang, Yaning Mao, Zhongmin Liu, Ke Wei, Hongming Zhu
2021, 12(2): 152-157. doi: 10.1007/s13238-020-00788-6