• epithelial to mesenchymal transition;
  • mammary epithelial cell;
  • apoptosis;
  • wound healing;
  • TGF-β1

Abstract Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is an essential embryogenic and developmental process, characterized by altered cellular morphology, loss of cell adhesion, and gain of migratory ability. Dysregulation of this process has been implicated in tumorigenesis, mediating the acquisition of migratory and invasive phenotypes by tumor cells. Mammary epithelial cells provide an excellent model in which to study the process, being derived from mammary gland tissue that utilizes EMT to facilitate branching morphogenesis through which the developing gland migrates into and invades the fat pad. Inappropriate EMT has been heavily implicated in the progression of ductal hyperplasia and mammary tumor metastasis. We examined the morphological and molecular changes of three murine mammary epithelial cell lines following EMT induction. EMT was induced in the EpH-4 and NMuMG cell lines by transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 but not by ethanol, while the KIM-2 cell line was partially resistant to TGF-β1 but responded fully to ethanol. The response to EMT-inducing reagent was shown to be critically dependent on the time of treatment, with confluent cells failing to respond. Timelapse photography identified increased motility during wound healing in cells pre-treated with EMT-inducing reagent compared with untreated controls. Furthermore, EMT conferred resistance to UV-induced apoptosis. Our data indicate that evaluation of characteristics other than loss and gain of phenotypic markers may be of benefit when assessing EMT, and contribute to the evidence suggesting that inappropriate EMT facilitates the acquisition of resistance to apoptosis, a key characteristic required for tumor survival.