International Journal of Molecular Sciences 2019 January 3 [Link]
Turini S, Bergandi L, Gazzano E, Prato M, Aldieri E
Asbestos exposure increases the risk of asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma (MM). Both fibrosis and cancer have been correlated with the Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition (EMT)-an event involved in fibrotic development and cancer progression. During EMT, epithelial cells acquire a mesenchymal phenotype by modulating some proteins. Different factors can induce EMT, but Transforming Growth Factor β (TGF-β) plays a crucial role in promoting EMT. In this work, we verified if EMT could be associated with MM development. We explored EMT in human mesothelial cells (MeT-5A) exposed to chrysotile asbestos: we demonstrated that asbestos induces EMT in MeT-5A cells by downregulating epithelial markers E-cadherin, β-catenin, and occludin, and contemporarily, by upregulating mesenchymal markers fibronectin, α-SMA, and vimentin, thus promoting EMT. In these cells, this mechanism is mediated by increased TGF-β secretion, which in turn downregulates E-cadherin and increases fibronectin. These events are reverted in the presence of TGF-β antibody, via a Small Mother Against Decapentaplegic (SMAD)-dependent pathway and its downstream effectors, such as Zinc finger protein SNAI1 (SNAIL-1), Twist-related protein (Twist), and Zinc Finger E-Box Binding Homeobox 1 (ZEB-1), which downregulate the E-cadherin gene. Since SNAIL-1, Twist, and ZEB-1 have been shown to be overexpressed in MM, these genes could be considered possible predictive or diagnostic markers of MM development.