RASSF1C oncogene elicits amoeboid invasion, cancer stemness, and extracellular vesicle release via a SRC/Rho axis

Maria Laura Tognoli, Nikola Vlahov, Sander Steenbeek, Anna M. Grawenda, Michael Eyres, David Cano-Rodriguez, Simon Scrace, Christiana Kartsonaki, Alex von Kriegsheim, Eduard Willms, Matthew J. Wood, Marianne G. Rots, Jacco van Rheenen, Eric O'Neill*, Daniela Pankova*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


Cell plasticity is a crucial hallmark leading to cancer metastasis. Upregulation of Rho/ROCK pathway drives actomyosin contractility, protrusive forces, and contributes to the occurrence of highly invasive amoeboid cells in tumors. Cancer stem cells are similarly associated with metastasis, but how these populations arise in tumors is not fully understood. Here, we show that the novel oncogene RASSF1C drives mesenchymal-to-amoeboid transition and stem cell attributes in breast cancer cells. Mechanistically, RASSF1C activates Rho/ROCK via SRC-mediated RhoGDI inhibition, resulting in generation of actomyosin contractility. Moreover, we demonstrate that RASSF1C-induced amoeboid cells display increased expression of cancer stem-like markers such as CD133, ALDH1, and Nanog, and are accompanied by higher invasive potential in vitro and in vivo. Further, RASSF1C-induced amoeboid cells employ extracellular vesicles to transfer the invasive phenotype to target cells and tissue. Importantly, the underlying RASSF1C-driven biological processes concur to explain clinical data: namely, methylation of the RASSF1C promoter correlates with better survival in early-stage breast cancer patients. Therefore, we propose the use of RASSF1 gene promoter methylation status as a biomarker for patient stratification.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107680
Number of pages23
JournalThe EMBO Journal
Issue number20
Early online date17-Sep-2021
Publication statusPublished - 18-Oct-2021


  • amoeboid motility
  • extracellular vesicles
  • gene methylation
  • RASSF1C oncogene
  • Rho
  • ROCK pathway
  • SRC
  • RHO

Cite this