Fluid shear stress induces emt of circulating tumor cells via jnk signaling in favor of their survival during hematogenous dissemination

Ying Xin, Keming Li, Mo Yang, Youhua Tan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Tumor cells metastasize to distal organs mainly through hematogenous dissemination, where they experience considerable levels of fluid shear stress. Epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays a critical role in tumor metastasis. However, how fluid shear stress influences the EMT phenotype of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in suspension has not been fully understood. The role of shear-induced EMT in cell survival under blood shear flow remains unclear. This study shows that the majority of breast CTCs underwent apoptosis under shear flow and the surviving cells exhibited mesenchymal phenotype, suggesting that fluid shear stress induces EMT. Mechanistically, fluid shear stress-activated Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) signaling, inhibition/activation of which suppressed/promoted the EMT phenotype. In particular, shear flow facilitated the JNK-dependent transition of epithelial CTCs into the mesenchymal status and maintained the pre-existing mesenchymal cells. Importantly, the induction of EMT suppressed the pro-apoptosis gene p53 upregulated modulator of apoptosis (PUMA) and enhanced the survival of suspended CTCs in fluid shear stress, which was rescued by overexpressing PUMA or silencing JNK signaling, suggesting that shear-induced EMT promotes CTC survival through PUMA downregulation and JNK activation. Further, the expressions of EMT markers and JUN were correlated with poor patient survival. In summary, our findings have demonstrated that fluid shear stress induces EMT in suspended CTCs via JNK signaling that promotes their survival in shear flow. This study thus unveils a new role of blood shear stress in CTC survival and facilitates the development of novel therapeutics against tumor metastasis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8115
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Circulating tumor cells
  • Epithelial–mesenchymal transition
  • Fluid shear stress
  • JNK
  • Metastasis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Fluid shear stress induces emt of circulating tumor cells via jnk signaling in favor of their survival during hematogenous dissemination'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this