MicroRNA-200b-mediated reversion of a spectrum of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition states in recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa squamous cell carcinomas

Julia Illmer*, Roland Zauner, Josefina Piñón Hofbauer, Monika Wimmer, Stefanie Gruner, Michael Ablinger, Johannes Bischof, Sonja Dorfer, Stefan Hainzl, Vanessa Tober, Shir Bergson, Ofer Sarig, Liat Samuelov, Christina Guttmann-Gruber, Ruby Shalom-Feuerstein, Eli Sprecher, Ulrich Koller, Martin Laimer, Johann W. Bauer, Verena Wally

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the leading cause of death in patients with recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB). However, the survival time from first diagnosis differs between patients; some tumours spread particularly fast, while others may remain localized for years. As treatment options are limited, there is an urgent need for further insights into the pathomechanisms of RDEB tumours, to foster therapy development and support clinical decision-making. Objectives To investigate differences in RDEB tumours of diverging aggressiveness at the molecular and phenotypic level, with a particular focus on epithelial-to-mesenchymal (EMT) transition states and thus microRNA-200b (miR-200b) as a regulator. Methods Primary RDEB-SCC keratinocyte lines were characterized with respect to their EMT state. For this purpose, cell morphology was classified and the expression of EMT markers analysed using immunofluorescence, flow cytometry, semi-quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction and Western blotting. The motility of RDEB-SCC cells was determined and conditioned medium of RDEB-SCC cells was used to treat endothelial cells in an angiogenesis assay. In addition, we mined previously generated microRNA (miRNA) profiling data to identify a candidate with potential therapeutic relevance and performed transient miRNA transfection studies to investigate the candidate’s ability to reverse EMT characteristics. Results We observed high variability in EMT state in the RDEB-SCC cell lines, which correlated with in situ analysis of two available patient biopsies and respective clinical disease course. Furthermore, we identified miR-200b-3p to be downregulated in RDEB-SCCs, and the extent of deregulation significantly correlated with the EMT features of the various tumour lines. miR-200b-3p was reintroduced into RDEB-SCC cell lines with pronounced EMT features, which resulted in a significant increase in epithelial characteristics, including cell morphology, EMT marker expression, migration and angiogenic potential. Conclusions RDEB-SCCs exist in different EMT states and the level of miR-200b is indicative of how far an RDEB-SCC has gone down the EMT path. Moreover, the reintroduction of miR-200b significantly reduced mesenchymal features.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-93
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Journal of Dermatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


FundersFunder number
Paracelsus Medical University SalzburgA-16/02/025-WAL
Austrian Science FundI4754-B, P29343-B30
Debra International


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