Mild overexpression of a novel transcription factor Grainy head like-2 (Grhl2) elicits hybrid phenotype in human astrocytoma cells

GOVINDARAJ, PRASANNARAJ ; VASUDEVAN, PRABHAKARAN

Abstract

The Grainy head like-2 (Grhl2) transcription factor plays a major role in embryonic and cancer development. The role of Grhl2 has been intensively studied in various cancers but not for brain cancer. Hence, in this study, we provide a preliminary understanding on the role of Grhl2 that regulate the transition of astrocytoma cells. The human A172 astrocytoma cell line, a mesenchymal cell characterized by mild overexpression of Grhl2 transcription factor, was used in this study. At first, the Grhl2 stably overexpressing A172 clones into three types i.e., Grhl2+ (mild), Grhl2++ (moderate) and Grhl2+++ (high) based on mRNA and protein expression levels of Grhl2 were characterized. Phenotypic characteristics of vector and Grhl2+ cells were observed using phase contrast microscopy. Quantitative PCR (qPCR), Western blot and immunofluorescence were used to detect the level of mesenchymal markers (N-cadherin/vimentin) and also epithelial markers (E-cadherin/ β- catenin) in vector and Grhl2+ cells. The migration and invasion characteristics of vector and Grhl2+ cells were determined by scratch assay and Boyden chamber assay. Further, the Grhl2+ cells were characterized to determine the effect of temozolomide chemotherapy drug which were widely used in treating brain cancer. As expected, in phase contrast image, we observed the mesenchymal characteristic of A172 cells becomes hybrid phenotype i.e., mixture of mesenchymal (spindle-like fibroblast morphology) and epithelial (cobblestone like appearance) cells upon Grhl2 mild expression (Grhl2+) when compared to vector cells. Further, we found that there was a significant upregulation of E-cadherin at both mRNA and protein levels in Grhl2+ cells when compared to vector cells. There was a significant upregulation of β-catenin, N-cadherin and vimentin at mRNA levels, but there was no significant upregulation at the protein levels in Grhl2+ cells compared to the vector cells. The migration and invasion were diminished in Grhl2+ cells when compared to the vector control cells. We observed that the Grhl2+ were sensitive to the temozolomide compared to the vector cells. This infers that the Grhl2+ cells were unable to attain complete transition of mesenchymal to epithelial state, and hence we categorized the Grhl2+ cells as hybrid phenotype. The results provide a better understanding of the largely unknown function of Grhl2 in human astrocytoma cells as tumor progression or suppression.

Keyword(s)

Boyden chamber assay; Brain cancer; Cell migration; Chemotherapy; Embryonic development; Epithelial markers; Invasion; Mesenchymal markers; Scratch assay; Temozolomide; Tumor progression/suppression

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