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Supplementary Material for: A Computational Systems Biology Approach Identifies SLUG as a Mediator of Partial Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT)

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posted on 10.02.2021, 14:35 by Subbalakshmi A.R., Sahoo S., Biswas K., Jolly M.K.
Epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity comprises reversible transitions among epithelial, hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal (E/M) and mesenchymal phenotypes, and underlies various aspects of aggressive tumor progression such as metastasis, therapy resistance, and immune evasion. The process of cells attaining one or more hybrid E/M phenotypes is termed as partial epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT). Cells in hybrid E/M phenotype(s) can be more aggressive than those in either fully epithelial or mesenchymal state. Thus, identifying regulators of hybrid E/M phenotypes is essential to decipher the rheostats of phenotypic plasticity and consequent accelerators of metastasis. Here, using a computational systems biology approach, we demonstrate that SLUG (SNAIL2) – an EMT-inducing transcription factor – can inhibit cells from undergoing a complete EMT and thus stabilize them in hybrid E/M phenotype(s). It expands the parametric range enabling the existence of a hybrid E/M phenotype, thereby behaving as a phenotypic stability factor. Our simulations suggest that this specific property of SLUG emerges from the topology of the regulatory network it forms with other key regulators of epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity. Clinical data suggest that SLUG associates with worse patient prognosis across multiple carcinomas. Together, our results indicate that SLUG can stabilize hybrid E/M phenotype(s).