Mesenchymal to amoeboid transition is associated with stem-like features of melanoma cells

Maria Letizia Taddei, Elisa Giannoni, Andrea Morandi, Luigi Ippolito, Matteo Ramazzotti, Maurizio Callari, Paolo Gandellini, Paola Chiarugi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Cellular plasticity confers cancer cells the ability to adapt to microenvironmental changes, a fundamental requirement for tumour progression and metastasis. The epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a transcriptional programme associated with increased cell motility and stemness. Besides EMT, the mesenchymal to amoeboid transition (MAT) has been described during tumour progression but to date, little is known about its transcriptional control and involvement in stemness. The aim of this manuscript is to investigate (i) the transcriptional profile associated with the MAT programme and (ii) to study whether MAT acquisition in melanoma cancer cells correlates with clonogenic potential to promote tumour growth. Results: By using a multidisciplinary approach, we identified four different treatments able to induce MAT in melanoma cells: EphA2 overexpression, Rac1 functional inhibition using its RacN17 dominant negative mutant, stimulation with Ilomastat or treatment with the RhoA activator Calpeptin. First, gene expression profiling identified the transcriptional pathways associated with MAT, independently of the stimulus that induces the MAT programme. Notably, gene sets associated with the repression of mesenchymal traits, decrease in the secretion of extracellular matrix components as well as increase of cellular stemness positively correlate with MAT. Second, the link between MAT and stemness has been investigated in vitro by analysing stemness markers and clonogenic potential of melanoma cells undergoing MAT. Finally, the link between MAT inducing treatments and tumour initiating capability has been validated in vivo. Conclusion: Taken together, our results demonstrate that MAT programme in melanoma is characterised by increased stemness and clonogenic features of cancer cells, thus sustaining tumour progression. Furthermore, these data suggest that stemness is not an exclusive feature of cells undergoing EMT, but more generally is associated with an increase in cellular plasticity of cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article number24
JournalCell Communication and Signaling
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2014


  • Amoeboid motility
  • Cell plasticity
  • EphA2
  • Melanoma
  • Stemness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Medicine(all)


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