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Cell Line, Tumor, DNA-Binding Proteins, Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition, Female, Gene Knockdown Techniques, Heat Shock Transcription Factors, Humans, Neoplasm Proteins, Ovarian Neoplasms, Spheroids, Cellular, Transcription Factors, Transforming Growth Factor beta

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Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecological cancer, with over 200,000 women diagnosed each year and over half of those cases leading to death. The proteotoxic stress-responsive transcription factor HSF1 is frequently overexpressed in a variety of cancers and is vital to cellular proliferation and invasion in some cancers. Upon analysis of various patient data sets, we find that HSF1 is frequently overexpressed in ovarian tumor samples. In order to determine the role of HSF1 in ovarian cancer, inducible HSF1 knockdown cell lines were created. Knockdown of HSF1 in SKOV3 and HEY ovarian cancer cell lines attenuates the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in cells treated with TGFβ, as determined by western blot and quantitative RT-PCR analysis of multiple EMT markers. To further explore the role of HSF1 in ovarian cancer EMT, we cultured multicellular spheroids in a non-adherent environment to simulate early avascular tumors. In the spheroid model, cells more readily undergo EMT; however, EMT inhibition by HSF1 becomes more pronounced in the spheroid model. These findings suggest that HSF1 is important in the ovarian cancer TGFβ response and in EMT.

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PLoS ONE, v. 11, issue 12, art. e0168389

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Fig 1. HSF1 levels are elevated in ovarian cancer patient samples.

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Fig 2. Validation of inducible HSF1 knockdown ovarian cancer cell lines.

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Fig 3. HSF1 knockdown reduces colony formation.

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Fig 4. HSF1 knockdown inhibits wound healing, migration and induction of fibronectin.

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Fig 5. Fibronectin expression is induced by 3D growth.

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Fig 6. TGFβ induction of EMT master-switch transcription factors are reduced upon HSF1 knockdown, and the effect is enhanced upon 3D culturing