Plasticity in Neuroblastoma Cell Identity Defines a Noradrenergic-to-Mesenchymal Transition (NMT)
Neuroblastoma, a pediatric cancer of the peripheral sympathetic nervous system, is characterized by an important clinical heterogeneity, and high-risk tumors are associated with a poor overall survival. Neuroblastoma cells may present with diverse morphological and biochemical properties in vitro, and seminal observations suggested that interconversion between two phenotypes called N-type and S-type may occur. In 2017, two main studies provided novel insights into these subtypes through the characterization of the transcriptomic and epigenetic landscapes of a panel of neuroblastoma cell lines. In this review, we focus on the available data that define neuroblastoma cell identity and propose to use the term noradrenergic (NOR) and mesenchymal (MES) to refer to these identities. We also address the question of transdifferentiation between both states and suggest that the plasticity between the NOR identity and the MES identity defines a noradrenergic-to-mesenchymal transition, reminiscent of but different from the well-established epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition.