Indexed on: 19 Dec '17Published on: 19 Dec '17Published in: Frontiers in oncology
Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) allows epithelial cancer cells to assume mesenchymal features, endowing them with enhanced motility and invasiveness, thus enabling cancer dissemination and metastatic spread. The induction of EMT is orchestrated by EMT-inducing transcription factors that switch on the expression of "mesenchymal" genes and switch off the expression of "epithelial" genes. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a hallmark of cancer and has been associated with progression to a metastatic and drug-resistant phenotype. The mechanistic link between metastasis and mitochondrial dysfunction is gradually emerging. The discovery that mitochondrial dysfunction owing to deregulated mitophagy, depletion of the mitochondrial genome (mitochondrial DNA) or mutations in Krebs' cycle enzymes, such as succinate dehydrogenase, fumarate hydratase, and isocitrate dehydrogenase, activate the EMT gene signature has provided evidence that mitochondrial dysfunction and EMT are interconnected. In this review, we provide an overview of the current knowledge on the role of different types of mitochondrial dysfunction in inducing EMT in cancer cells. We place emphasis on recent advances in the identification of signaling components in the mito-nuclear communication network initiated by dysfunctional mitochondria that promote cellular remodeling and EMT activation in cancer cells.