Epithelial-mesenchymal transition in prostate cancer is associated with quantifiable changes in nuclear structure

James E. Verdone, Princy Parsana, Robert W. Veltri, Kenneth J. Pienta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Prostate cancer progression is concomitant with quantifiable nuclear structure and texture changes as compared to non-cancer tissue. Malignant progression is associated with an epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) program whereby epithelial cancer cells take on a mesenchymal phenotype and dissociate from a tumor mass, invade, and disseminate to distant metastatic sites. The objective of this study was to determine if epithelial and mesenchymal prostate cancer cells have different nuclear morphology. METHODS: Murine tibia injections of epithelial PC3 (PC3-Epi) and mesenchymal PC3 (PC3-EMT) prostate cancer cells were processed and stained with H&E. Cancer cell nuclear image data was obtained using commercially available image-processing software. Univariate and multivariate statistical analysis were used to compare the two phenotypes. Several nonparametric classifiers were constructed and permutation-tested at various training set fractions to ensure robustness of classification between PC3-Epi and PC3-EMTcells in vivo. RESULTS: PC3-Epi and PC3-EMT prostate cancer cells were separable at the single cell level in murine tibia injections on the basis of nuclear structure and texture remodeling associated with an EMT. Support vector machine and multinomial logistic regression models based on nuclear architecture features yielded AUC- ROC curves of 0.95 and 0.96, respectively, in separating PC3-Epi and PC3-EMT prostate cancer cells in vivo. CONCLUSIONS: Prostate cancer cells that have undergone an EMT demonstrated an altered nuclear structure. The association of nuclear changes and a mesenchymal phenotype demonstrates quantitative morphometric image analysis may be used to detect cancer cells that have undergone EMT. This morphometric measurement could provide valuable prognostic information in patients regarding the likelihood of [future] metastatic disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-224
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • EMT
  • Imaging
  • Morphometry
  • Nuclear morphology
  • Prostate cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Urology


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