Cytosolic EpCAM cooperates with H-Ras to regulate epithelial to mesenchymal transition through ZEB1

Fatma A. Omar, Taylor C. Brown, William E. Gillanders, Timothy P. Fleming, Michael A. Smith, Ross M. Bremner, Narendra V. Sankpal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Next generation sequencing of human cancer mutations has identified novel therapeutic targets. Activating Ras oncogene mutations play a central role in oncogenesis, and Ras-driven tumorigenesis upregulates an array of genes and signaling cascades that can transform normal cells into tumor cells. In this study, we investigated the role of altered localization of epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) in Ras-expressing cells. Analysis of microarray data demonstrated that Ras expression induced EpCAM expression in normal breast epithelial cells. Fluorescent and confocal microscopy showed that H-Ras mediated transformation also promoted epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) together with EpCAM. To consistently localize EpCAM in the cytosol, we generated a cancer-associated EpCAM mutant (EpCAM-L240A) that is retained in the cytosol compartment. Normal MCF-10A cells were transduced with H-Ras together with EpCAM wild-type (WT) or EpCAM-L240A. WTEpCAM marginally effected invasion, proliferation, and soft agar growth. EpCAM-L240A, however, markedly altered cells and transformed to mesenchymal phenotype. Ras- EpCAM-L240A expression also promoted expression of EMT factors FRA1, ZEB1 with inflammatory cytokines IL-6, IL-8, and IL1. This altered morphology was reversed using MEK-specific inhibitors and to some extent JNK inhibition. Furthermore, these transformed cells were sensitized to apoptosis using paclitaxel and quercetin, but not other therapies. For the first time, we have demonstrated that EpCAM mutations can cooperate with H-Ras and promote EMT. Collectively, our results highlight future therapeutic opportunities in EpCAM and Ras mutated cancers.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0285707
JournalPloS one
Issue number5 May
StatePublished - May 2023


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