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.
RASSF1C oncogene, Rho/ROCK pathway, amoeboid motility, extracellular vesicles, gene methylation