WNT5A signaling impairs breast cancer cell migration and invasion via mechanisms independent of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition

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Background: WNT5A (-/-) mammary tissue has been shown to exhibit increased ductal elongation, suggesting elevated mammary cell migration. Increased epithelial cell migration/invasion has often but not always been linked to the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). In the current study, we investigated the loss of WNT5A in HB2 human mammary epithelial cells and hypothesized that this loss increased their invasion via the EMT. Based on these results, we postulated that suppression of breast cancer cell migration and invasion by WNT5A is due to EMT reversal. Methods: WNT5A was transiently knocked down using specific siRNAs, whereas WNT5A signaling was induced in MDA-MB468 and MDA-MB231 breast cancer cells by stably transfecting cells with WNT5A or treating them with recombinant WNT5A (rWNT5A). Changes in EMT markers, CD44, pAKT and AKT expression were assessed using Western blotting and immunofluorescence. The physiological relevance of altered WNT5A signaling was assessed using migration and invasion assays. Results: WNT5A knockdown in HB2 mammary epithelial cells resulted in EMT-like changes and increased invasiveness, and these changes were partially reversed by the addition of rWNT5A. These data suggest that WNT5A might inhibit breast cancer cell migration and invasion by a similar EMT reversal. Contrary to our expectations, we did not observe any changes in the EMT status of breast cancer cells, either after treatment with rWNT5A or stable transfection with a WNT5A plasmid, despite the parallel WNT5A-induced inhibition of migration and invasion. Instead, we found that WNT5A signaling impaired CD44 expression and its downstream signaling via AKT. Moreover, knocking down CD44 in breast cancer cells using siRNA impaired cell migration and invasion. Conclusions: WNT5A bi-directionally regulates EMT in mammary epithelial cells, thereby affecting their migration and invasion. However, the ability of WNT5A to inhibit breast cancer cell migration and invasion is an EMT-independent mechanism that, at least in part, can be explained by decreased CD44 expression.


  • Chandra Prakash Prasad
  • Shivendra Kumar Chaurasiya
  • William Guilmain
  • Tommy Andersson
External organisations
  • Skåne University Hospital
  • Dr. Harisingh Gour University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cancer and Oncology


  • AKT, Breast cancer, CD44, Cell migration and invasion, EMT, ERK1/2, Human mammary epithelial cells, WNT5A
Original languageEnglish
Article number144
JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Publication categoryResearch