Research Paper Volume 12, Issue 20 pp 20493—20511

RNA-seq reveals the diverse effects of substrate stiffness on epidermal ovarian cancer cells

Xiaoxu Yang1, *, , Guohui Wang1, *, , Xiaolei Huang1, , Min Cheng2, , Yangyang Han1, ,

  • 1 School of Life Science and Technology, Weifang Medical University, Weifang 261053, Shandong, P.R. China
  • 2 Department of Physiology, Weifang Medical University, Weifang 261053, Shandong, P.R. China
* Equal contribution

Received: May 4, 2020       Accepted: July 21, 2020       Published: October 22, 2020
How to Cite
This article has been corrected. See Correction. Aging (Albany NY). 2021; 13:19946-19947 .  PMID: 34419939

Copyright: © 2020 Yang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Background: Increasing evidence has confirmed that ovarian cancer is a mechanically responsive tumor both in vivo and in vitro. However, an understanding of the complete molecular mechanism involved in the response to substrate stiffness is lacking, as the associated transcriptome-wide effects have not been mapped. This limited understanding has restricted the identification of potential mechanically responsive targets in ovarian cancer.

Results: To address these limitations, we used a polyacrylamide hydrogel system with a tunable Young’s modulus that broadly ranged from soft (1 kPa) to normal (6 kPa) and stiff (60 kPa) and investigated the effect of substrate rigidity on the morphology, spreading area, and cytoskeleton of SKOV-3 epidermal ovarian cancer (EOC) cells. RNA-seq analysis of these cells was then performed at appropriate timepoints to map the transcriptome-wide changes associated with stiffness sensing. We identified a large number of stiffness-sensing genes as well as many genes that were enriched in cancer-related pathways. Informed by these diverse expression results and based on bioinformatics analysis, we evaluated the hypothesis that PLEC and TNS2, which are located in focal adhesions and regulated by lnc-ZNF136, may play key roles in the EOC response to substrate stiffness.

Conclusion: Overall, the results of the present study reveal previously unknown features of the EOC stiffness response and provide new insights into EOC metastasis in the clinic.


BP: biological process; CC: cellular component; DEMs: differentially expressed mRNAs; DELs: differentially expressed lncRNAs; ECM: extracellular matrix; EOC: epidermal ovarian cancer; FBS: fetal bovine serum; FDR: false discovery rate; GEO: gene expression omnibus; GO: gene ontology; GSEA: gene set enrichment analysis; LOX1: lysyl oxidase 1; MF: molecular function; MRE: magnetic resonance elastography; NES: normalized enrichment score; PPIs: protein-protein interactions; STRING: search tool for the retrieval of interacting genes; TCGA: the cancer genome atlas; TG2: transglutaminase 2.