Autophagy induction impairs migration and invasion by reversing EMT in glioblastoma cells

Myriam Catalano, Giuseppina D'Alessandro, Francesca Lepore, Marco Corazzari, Sara Caldarola, Cristina Valacca, Fiorella Faienza, Vincenzo Esposito, Cristina Limatola, Francesco Cecconi, Sabrina Di Bartolomeo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cell migration and invasion are highly regulated processes involved in both physiological and pathological conditions. Here we show that autophagy modulation regulates the migration and invasion capabilities of glioblastoma (GBM) cells. We observed that during autophagy occurrence, obtained by nutrient deprivation or by pharmacological inhibition of the mTOR complexes, GBM migration and chemokine-mediated invasion were both impaired. We also observed that SNAIL and SLUG, two master regulators of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT process), were down-regulated upon autophagy stimulation and, as a consequence, we found a transcriptional and translational up-regulation of N- and R-cadherins. Conversely, in BECLIN 1-silenced GBM cells, an increased migration capability and an up-regulation of SNAIL and SLUG was observed, with a resulting decrease in N- and R-cadherin mRNAs. ATG5 and ATG7 down-regulation also resulted in an increased migration and invasion of GBM cells combined to an up-regulation of the two EMT regulators. Finally, experiments performed in primary GBM cells from patients largely confirmed the results obtained in established cell cultures.Overall, our results indicate that autophagy modulation triggers a molecular switch from a mesenchymal phenotype to an epithelial-like one in GBM cellular models. Since the aggressiveness and lethality of GBM is defined by local invasion and resistance to chemotherapy, we believe that our evidence provides a further rationale for including autophagy/mTOR-based targets in the current therapeutical regimen of GBM patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1612-1625
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Oncology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2015


  • Autophagy
  • Cell migration
  • EMT
  • Glioma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Medicine


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