Glioma is a malignant tumor that recurs easily. This study aimed to investigate the biological effect of ELK3 in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and its prognostic value.

Material and methods:
Bioinformatics analyses were performed to determine the expression and prognostic value of ELK3. The biological properties of glioma cells (A172 and LN229) were evaluated by Cell Counting Kit-8, plate cloning and transwell assays. The Gene Expression Profiling Interactive Analysis (GEPIA) website was used to analyze the relationship between ELK3 expression and EMT-related markers. Western blotting was applied to detect the protein levels.

ELK3 is highly expressed in glioma and significantly associated with poor prognosis (p < 0.05), presenting promising value in the diagnosis and prognostic prediction of glioma. Further biological assays revealed that cell viability was notably reduced after down-regulating ELK3 (p < 0.01). The numbers of colonies formed by A172 (145.30 ±12.86 vs. 300.30 ±11.68) and LN229 (125.70 ±4.04 vs. 256.00 ±20.07) cells were decreased after transfection of si-ELK3 (p < 0.01). The numbers of invaded and migrated glioma cells in the si-ELK3 group were decreased by about half (p < 0.01). Moreover, ELK3 was positively correlated with N-cadherin (R = 0.21), Snail1 (R = 0.43), Slug (R = 0.6) and vimentin (R = 0.35), and depletion of ELK3 reduced the levels of these EMT-related markers more than a half (p < 0.01).

Our observations illustrated that ELK3 was highly expressed in glioma and played a promoting role in the growth and mobility of glioma cells partly by modulating EMT progression.