Nanoscopic Approach to Study the Early Stages of Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) of Human Retinal Pigment Epithelial (RPE) Cells In Vitro
Sprache des Titels:
The maintenance of visual function is supported by the proper functioning of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), representing a mosaic of polarized cuboidal postmitotic cells. Damage factors such as inflammation, aging, or injury can initiate the migration and proliferation of RPE cells, whereas they undergo a pseudo-metastatic transformation or an epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) from cuboidal epithelioid into fibroblast-like or macrophage-like cells. This process is recognized as a key feature in several severe ocular pathologies, and is mimicked by placing RPE cells in culture, which provides a reasonable and well-characterized in vitro model for a type 2 EMT. The most obvious characteristic of EMT is the cell phenotype switching, accompanied by the cytoskeletal reorganization with changes in size, shape, and geometry. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has the salient ability to label-free explore these characteristics. Based on our AFM results supported by the genetic analysis of specific RPE differentiation markers, we elucidate a scheme for gradual transformation from the cobblestone to fibroblast-like phenotype. Structural changes in the actin cytoskeletal reorganization at the early stages of EMT lead to the development of characteristic geodomes, a finding that may reflect an increased propensity of RPE cells to undergo further EMT and thus become of diagnostic significance.