Expression of the FGFR2 mesenchymal splicing variant in epithelial cells drives epithelial-mesenchymal transition

Danilo Ranieri, Benedetta Rosato, Monica Nanni, Alessandra Magenta, Francesca Belleudi, Maria Rosaria Torrisi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The FGFRs are receptor tyrosine kinases expressed by tissue-specific alternative splicing in epithelial IIIb or mesenchymal IIIc isoforms. Deregulation of FGF/FGFR signaling unbalances the epithelial-stromal homeostasis and may lead to cancer development. In the epithelial-context, while FGFR2b/KGFR acts as tumor suppressor, FGFR2c appears to play an oncogenic role. Based on our recent observation that the switching of FGFR2b versus FGFR2c induces EMT, here we investigated the biological outcome of the ectopic expression of FGFR2c in normal human keratinocytes. Morphological analysis showed that, differently from FGFR2b overexpression, the forced expression and activation of FGFR2c drive the epithelial cells to acquire a mesenchymal-like shape and actin reorganization. Moreover, the appearance of invasiveness and anchorage-independent growth ability in FGFR2c transfected keratinocytes was consistent with the potential tumorigenic role proposed for this receptor variant. Biochemical and molecular approaches revealed that the observed phenotypic changes were accompanied by modulation of EMT biomarkers and indicated the involvement of EMT transcription factors and miRs. Finally, the analysis of the expression pattern of discriminating markers strongly suggested that activation of FGFR2c triggers a process corresponding to the initiation of the pathological type III EMT, but not to the more physiological type II EMT occurring during FGFR2b-mediated wound healing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5440-5460
Number of pages21
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Epithelial-mesenchymal transition
  • FGFR2
  • Human keratinocytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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