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1.  The Prognostic Significance of Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts in Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99955.
Background
Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) are activated fibroblasts in the cancer stroma and play an important role in cancer progression. Some reports have indicated the correlation between the expression of CAF markers and adverse prognosis in several cancers. However, no reports have studied CAF phenotype and its clinical relevance in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC).
Methods
We investigated CAF phenotype of ESCC based on histology and immunohistochemical expressions of five CAF markers such as fibroblast activation protein (FAP), smooth muscle actin (SMA), fibroblast-specific protein-1 (FSP1), platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFRα), and PDGFRβ in 116 ESCC tissue samples. Besides, we also examined the correlation of the CAF phenotype with clinical relevance as well as other cancer-microenvironment related factors.
Results
Histologically immature CAF phenotype was correlated with poor prognosis (p<0.001) and associated with increased microvessel density, increased tumor associated macrophages, and epithelial to mesenchymal transition. CAF markers were characteristically expressed in stromal fibroblast close to tumor cells and the expression pattern of 5 CAF markers was highly heterogeneous in every individual cases. Of five CAF markers, SMA, FSP1, and PDGFRα were unfavorable prognostic indicators of ESCC. The number of positive CAF markers was greater in ESCC with immature CAFs than in those with mature ones.
Conclusions
Our results demonstrate that histologic classification of CAF phenotype is a reliable and significant prognostic predictor in ESCC. CAF markers have the potential to be diagnostic and therapeutic targets in ESCC.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0099955
PMCID: PMC4063790  PMID: 24945657
2.  Curcumin targets fibroblast–tumor cell interactions in oral squamous cell carcinoma 
Experimental Cell Research  2013;319(6):800-809.
Co-culture of periodontal ligament fibroblasts (PDLs) and SCC-25 oral squamous carcinoma cells (OSCC) results in conversion of PDLs into carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) and induces epithelial-to mesenchymal transition (EMT) of OSCC tumor cells. We hypothesized that Curcumin targets this dynamic mutual interaction between CAFs and tumor cells. Normal and 2 μM Curcumin-treated co-culture were performed for 4 days, followed by analysis of tumor cell invasivity, mRNA/protein expression of EMT-markers and mediators, activity measure of matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9), and western blot analysis of signal transduction in tumor cells and fibroblasts. In Curcumin-treated co-culture, in tumor cells, the levels of nuclear factor κB (NFκBα) and early response kinase (ERK)—decreased, in fibroblasts, integrin αv protein synthesis decreased compared to corresponding cells in normal co-culture. The signal modulatory changes induced by Curcumin caused decreased release of EMT-mediators in CAFs and reversal of EMT in tumor cells, which was associated with decreased invasion. These data confirm the palliative potential of Curcumin in clinical application.
Graphical abstract
Co-culture of periodontal ligament fibroblasts (PDLs) and SCC-25 oral squamous carcinoma cells (OSCC) results in conversion of PDLs into carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) and induces epithelial-to mesenchymal transition (EMT) of tumor cells. Curcumin targets this dynamic mutual interaction between CAFs and tumor cells by inhibiting the production of EMT mediators in CAFs and by modification of intracellular signaling in tumor cells. This causes less invasivity and reversal of EMT in tumor cells.
Highlights
► Curcumin targets tumor–fibroblast interaction in head and neck cancer. ► Curcumin suppresses mediators of epithelial–mesenchymal transition. ► Curcumin decreases the invasivity of tumor cells.
doi:10.1016/j.yexcr.2012.12.001
PMCID: PMC3595529  PMID: 23247073
AKT, another kinase of transcription; AP-1, activator protein-1; bcl2, B-cell lymphoma-2; BDNF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor; CAFs, carcinoma-associated fibroblasts; COX-2, prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2; DMSO, dimethyl sulfoxide; ECM, extracellular matrix; EMT, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition; ERK, early response kinase; FBS, fetal bovine serum; HNSCC, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; IL, interleukin; ITGA5, integrin αV; MMP, matrix metalloproteinase; MTT, 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)2,5diphenyltetrazolium bromide; NFkBα, nuclear factor kBα; OSCC, oral squamous cell carcinoma; PDLs, periodontal ligament (PDL) fibroblasts; TGF-β1, transforming growth factor-β1; TrkB, neurothrophin receptor B; Head and neck cancer; Curcuma longa; Polyphenol; Targeting; Tumor microenvironment
3.  Tumor cell and carcinoma-associated fibroblast interaction regulates matrix metalloproteinases and their inhibitors in oral squamous cell carcinoma 
Experimental Cell Research  2012;318(13-16):1517-1527.
Co-culture of periodontal ligament (PDL) fibroblasts and SCC-25 oral squamous carcinoma cells (OSCC), results in conversion of PDLs into carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). Paracrin circuits between CAFs and OSCC cells were hypothesized to regulate the gene expression of matrix remodeling enzymes in their co-culture, which was performed for 7 days, followed by analysis of the mRNA/protein expression and activity of metalloproteinases (MMPs), their tissue inhibitors (TIMPs) and other relevant genes. Interleukin1-β, transforming growth factor-β1, fibronectin and αvβ6 integrin have shown to be involved in the regulation of the MMP and TIMP gene expression in co-culture of CAFs and tumor cells. In addition, these cells also cooperated in activation of MMP pro-enzymes. It is particularly interesting that the fibroblast-produced inactive MMP-2 has been activated by the tumor-cell-produced membrane-type 1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP). The crosstalk between cancer- and the surrounding fibroblast stromal-cells is essential for the fine tuning of cancer cells invasivity.
Graphical abstract
Summary of the suggested mechanism for the regulation of MMPs and TIMPs in the paracrine interplay between SCC-25 cells and fibroblasts. MMP-9 showed a tumor specific expression, regulated presumably by the fibronectin ITGA5B6 pathway. The ITGA5 was inducible in both SCC-25 and PDL fibroblasts in co-culture, but ITGB6 expression was tumor (SCC-25) specific. Based on a previous report [41], MMP-9 might be activated in the interaction with CD-44, and according to our gelatinase assay results, it remains bound with the tumor cells (A). The results of this study suggest that MMP-2 is secreted in its pro- (inactive-) form by CAFs surrounding the tumor cells, and at a lower extent also by the tumor cells themselves. Activation of MMP-2 either requires MT1-MMP localized on the SCC-25 cancer cells [31], or integrins, where the involvement of αv integrins (ITGA5) is expected (A).
MMPs-1, 3 and TIMPs-1, 3 are produced in the PDL fibroblasts, and their expression might be regulated by inflammatory cytokines, including IL1-β produced by SCC-25 cells. The expression of TIMP-1 and TIMP-3 is 20–70-times higher than that of MMPs-1 and 3. The gene expression of MMP-1; 2, TIMP-1 and TIMP-3 was reduced by dexamethasone (DEX) (B).
doi:10.1016/j.yexcr.2012.03.023
PMCID: PMC3378977  PMID: 22516051
CAFs, carcinoma-associated fibroblasts; COX-2, prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2; DEX, dexamethasone; ECM, extracellular matrix; EMT, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition; FBS, foetal bovine serum; FN, fibronectin; HNSCC, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; IL, interleukin; IMVD, intratumoral microvessel density; LTBP-1, latent-transforming growth factor beta-binding protein; 1MMP, matrix metalloproteinase; MT1-MMP, membrane-type 1 matrix metalloproteinase; OSCC, oral squamous cell carcinoma; PDL, periodontal ligament (PDL) fibroblasts; TGF-β1, transforming growth factor-β1; TIMP, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases; HNSCC; Co-culture insert; Metastasis; Matrix remodeling
4.  Dasatinib reverses Cancer-associated Fibroblasts (CAFs) from primary Lung Carcinomas to a Phenotype comparable to that of normal Fibroblasts 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:168.
Cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) play a critical role for growth, invasion, and metastasis of cancer. Therefore, targeting CAFs with small molecule inhibitors may be an attractive anti-tumor strategy. The current study aims to identify small molecule kinase inhibitors affecting CAF's growth and to characterize the biological effects of active compounds on primary CAFs from lung cancer. We screened two individual CAF strains for their sensitivity to a panel of 160 kinase inhibitors. Five kinase inhibitors were identified inhibiting more than 50% of the growth of both cell lines. Three of them were inhibitors of PDGFR at nanomolar concentrations. Therefore, we further tested the FDA approved PDGFR inhibitors Dasatinib, Nilotinib, Sorafenib, and Imatinib. All 37 CAF strains investigated were highly sensitive to Dasatinib at clinically relevant concentrations. Imatinib was slightly less effective, whereas the inhibitory effects of Nilotinib and Sorafenib were significantly less pronounced.
We investigated the effect of Dasatinib on the CAF transcriptome by microarray analysis of 9 individual CAF strains. 492 genes were identified whose expression was changed at least twofold. 104 of these encoded cell cycle related proteins with 97 of them being downregulated by Dasatinib. The majority of regulated genes, however, were of diverse biological functions not directly related to proliferation. We compared this Dasatinib expression signature to previously described differential signatures of normal tissue associated fibroblasts (NAFs) and CAFs and to a signature of fibroblast serum response. There was a significant overlap between genes regulated by Dasatinib and serum repression genes. More importantly, of the 313 genes downregulated by Dasatinib 64 were also reduced in NAFs compared to CAFs. Furthermore, 26 of 179 genes identified as upregulated by Dasatinib were also found to be elevated in NAFs compared to CAFs. These data demonstrate that Dasatinib partially reverses the phenotype of CAFs to a normal fibroblast like phenotype. This is further supported by the finding that incubation of tumor cells with conditioned medium from CAFs pre-incubated with Dasatinib significantly reduced tumor cell proliferation, suggesting that Dasatinib partially reverses the CAF mediated tumor promoting effect. Therefore, targeting CAFs with Dasatinib represents a promising therapeutic principle.
doi:10.1186/1476-4598-9-168
PMCID: PMC2907332  PMID: 20579391
5.  Tumor-produced, active Interleukin-1 β regulates gene expression in carcinoma-associated fibroblasts 
Experimental Cell Research  2011;317(15):2222-2229.
Recently we described a co-culture model of periodontal ligament (PDL) fibroblasts and SCC-25 lingual squamous carcinoma cells, which resulted in conversion of normal fibroblasts into carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), and in epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) of SCC-25 cells. We have found a constitutive high interleukin-1β (IL1-β) expression in SCC-25 cells in normal and in co-cultured conditions. In our hypothesis a constitutive IL1-β expression in SCC-25 regulates gene expression in fibroblasts during co-culture. Co-cultures were performed between PDL fibroblasts and SCC-25 cells with and without dexamethasone (DEX) treatment; IL1-β processing was investigated in SCC-25 cells, tumor cells and PDL fibroblasts were treated with IL1-β. IL1-β signaling was investigated by western blot and immunocytochemistry. IL1-β-regulated genes were analyzed by real-time qPCR.
SCC-25 cells produced 16 kD active IL1-β, its receptor was upregulated in PDL fibroblasts during co-culture, which induced phosphorylation of interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase-1 (IRAK-1), and nuclear translocalization of NFκBα. Several genes, including interferon regulatory factor 1 (IRF1) interleukin-6 (IL-6) and prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2 (COX-2) were induced in CAFs during co-culture. The most enhanced induction was found for IL-6 and COX-2. Treatment of PDL fibroblasts with IL1-β reproduced a time- and dose-dependent upregulation of IL1-receptor, IL-6 and COX-2. A further proof was achieved by DEX inhibition for IL1-β-stimulated IL-6 and COX-2 gene expression. Constitutive expression of IL1-β in the tumor cells leads to IL1-β-stimulated gene expression changes in tumor-associated fibroblasts, which are involved in tumor progression.
Graphical abstract
SCC-25 cells produce active, processed IL1-β. PDL fibroblasts possess receptor for IL1-β, and its expression is increased 4.56-times in the presence of SCC-25 tumor cells. IL1-β receptor expression in fibroblasts, especially in CAFs represents a major option in coordination of fibroblast and tumor behavior. A key event in IL1-β signaling, the phosphorylation of IRAK1, occurred in co-cultured fibroblasts, which has lead to nuclear translocation of NFκBα, and finally to induction of several genes, including BDNF, IRF1, IL-6 and COX-2. The most enhanced induction was found for IL-6 and COX-2.
doi:10.1016/j.yexcr.2011.05.023
PMCID: PMC3171161  PMID: 21664353
BDNF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor; CAFs, carcinoma-associated fibroblasts; DEX, dexamethasone; EMT, epithelial–mesenchymal transition; HNSCC, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; IL1-β, interleukin-1 beta; IRAK-1, interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase-1; IRF1, interferon regulatory factor 1; NFkBα, nuclear factor kappa beta; IL-6, interleukin-6; PAI1, Plasminogen-activator inhibitor-1; PDLs, periodontal ligament fibroblasts; COX-2, prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2; SDF1, stromal-derived factor 1; TrkB, tropomyosin-like kinase B receptor; TNF-α, tumor necrosis factor alpha; Interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase-1 (IRAK-1); Nuclear factor kappa beta (NFκBα); Interferon regulatory factor 1 (IRF1); Interleukin-6 (IL-6); Prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2 (COX-2); Carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs)
6.  Upregulation of cancer-associated myofibroblasts by TGF-β from scirrhous gastric carcinoma cells 
British Journal of Cancer  2011;105(7):996-1001.
Background:
Myofibroblasts in the cancer microenvironment have recently been implicated in tumour growth and metastasis of gastric cancer. However, the mechanisms responsible for the regulation of myofibroblasts in cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) remain unclear. This study was performed to clarify the mechanisms for regulation of myofibroblasts in gastric cancer microenvironment.
Methods:
Two CAFs (CaF-29 and CaF-33) from the tumoural gastric wall and a normal fibroblast (NF-29) from the nontumoural gastric wall, 4 human gastric cancer cell lines from scirrhous gastric cancer (OCUM-2MD3 and OCUM-12), and non-scirrhous gastric cancer (MKN-45 and MKN-74) were used. Immunofluorescence microscopy by triple-immunofluorescence labelling (α-SMA, vimentin, and DAPI) was performed to determine the presence of α-SMA-positive myofibroblasts. Real-time RT–PCR was performed to examine α-SMA mRNA expression.
Results:
Immunofluorescence microscopy showed that the frequency of myofibroblasts in CaF-29 was greater than that in NF-29. The number of myofibroblasts in gastric fibroblasts gradually decreased with serial passages. Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) significantly increased the α-SMA expression level of CAFs. Conditioned medium from OCUM-2MD3 or OCUM-12 cells upregulated the α-SMA expression level of CAFs, but that from MKN-45 or MKN-74 cells did not. The α-SMA upregulation effect of conditioned medium from OCUM-2MD3 or OCUM-12 cells was significantly decreased by an anti-TGF-β antibody or Smad2 siRNA.
Conclusion:
Transforming growth factor-β from scirrhous gastric carcinoma cells upregulates the number of myofibroblasts in CAFs.
doi:10.1038/bjc.2011.330
PMCID: PMC3185946  PMID: 21863023
myofibroblasts; cancer-associated fibroblasts; TGF-β; scirrhous gastric carcinoma; microenvironment; interaction
7.  Concordant podoplanin expression in cancer-associated fibroblasts and tumor cells is an adverse prognostic factor in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma 
There is growing evidence that cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) interact with tumor cells and play important roles in tumor progression and invasion. Podoplanin is a type-1 transmembrane glycoprotein expressed in a variety of normal human tissues, including lymphatic endothelium. Tumor cell expression of podoplanin correlates with nodal metastasis and poor prognosis in squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of oral cavity and esophagus. Recently, podoplanin-positive CAFs have been shown to exert adverse or beneficial prognostic effect on different cancer types. However, the significance of podoplanin-positive CAFs in esophageal SCC has not been investigated. This is the first study to investigate podoplanin expression in CAFs and tumor cells by immunohistochemistry in 59 cases of surgically resected esophageal SCC. We found significant association of podoplanin expression between CAFs and tumor cells (P = 0.031). Although the abundance of podoplanin-positive CAFs per se had no prognostic effect, concordant podoplanin expression in CAFs and tumor cells (both high or both low) was strongly associated with short survival (P = 0.00088). Multivariate analysis showed that concordant podoplanin expression was the strongest independent adverse prognostic factor (hazard ratio: 3.62; 95% confidence interval: 1.69-7.77; P = 0.00094). Our data suggest that interaction between podoplanin-positive CAFs and tumor cells is important in tumor biology of esophageal SCC.
PMCID: PMC4152045  PMID: 25197355
Podoplanin; cancer-associated fibroblast; esophagus; squamous cell carcinoma; prognosis
8.  Modulated expression of WFDC1 during carcinogenesis and cellular senescence 
Carcinogenesis  2008;30(1):20-27.
Fibroblasts located adjacent to the tumor [cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs)] that constitute a large proportion of the cancer-associated stroma facilitate the transformation process. In this study, we compared the biological behavior of CAFs that were isolated from a prostate tumor to their normal-associated fibroblast (NAF) counterparts. CAFs formed more colonies when seeded at low cell density, exhibited a higher proliferation rate and were less prone to contact inhibition. In contrast to the general notion that high levels of α-smooth muscle actin serve as a marker for CAFs, we found that prostate CAFs express it at a lower level compared with prostate NAFs. Microarray analysis revealed a set of 161 genes that were altered in CAFs compared with NAFs. We focused on whey acidic protein four-disulfide core domain 1 (WFDC1), a known secreted protease inhibitor, and found it to be downregulated in the CAFs. WFDC1 expression was also dramatically downregulated in highly prolific mesenchymal cells and in various cancers including fibrosarcomas and in tumors of the lung, bladder and brain. Overexpression of WFDC1 inhibited the growth rate of the fibrosarcoma HT1080 cell line. Furthermore, WFDC1 level was upregulated in senescent fibroblasts. Taken together, our data suggest an important role for WFDC1 in inhibiting proliferation of both tumors and senescent cells. Finally, we suggest that the downregulation of WFDC1 might serve as a biomarker for cellular transformation.
doi:10.1093/carcin/bgn232
PMCID: PMC2639035  PMID: 18842679
9.  Role of Oxidative Stress and the Microenvironment in Breast Cancer Development and Progression 
Advances in cancer research  2013;119:107-125.
Breast cancer is a highly complex tissue composed of neoplastic and stromal cells. Carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are commonly found in the cancer stroma, where they promote tumor growth and enhance vascularity in the microenvironment. Upon exposure to oxidative stress, fibroblasts undergo activation to become myofibroblasts. These cells are highly mobile and contractile and often express numerous mesenchymal markers. CAF activation is irreversible, making them incapable of being removed by nemosis. In breast cancer, almost 80% of stromal fibroblasts acquire an activated phenotype that manifests by secretion of elevated levels of growth factors, cytokines, and metalloproteinases. They also produce hydrogen peroxide, which induces the generation of subsequent sets of activated fibroblasts and tumorigenic alterations in epithelial cells. While under oxidative stress, the tumor stroma releases high energy nutrients that fuel cancer cells and facilitate their growth and survival. This review describes how breast cancer progression is dependent upon oxidative stress activated stroma and proposes potential new therapeutic avenues.
doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-407190-2.00003-4
PMCID: PMC3950899  PMID: 23870510
Oxidative stress; Reactive oxygen species; Breast cancer; Microenvironment; Stroma-associated fibroblasts; Myofibroblasts; Cancer-associated fibroblasts
10.  The role of miR-31 and its target gene SATB2 in cancer-associated fibroblasts 
Cell Cycle  2010;9(21):4387-4398.
It is well established that there is a dynamic relationship between the expanding tumor and the host surrounding tissue. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), the most common cellular population found in the tumor microenvironment, support tumor growth and dissemination. Here, we set out to determine the factors that may be involved in dramatic alteration of gene expression pattern in CAFs, focusing on microRNA and transcriptional regulators. We established matched pairs of human CAFs isolated from endometrial cancer and normal endometrial fibroblasts. MicroRNA and mRNA analyses identified differential expression of 11 microRNAs, with miR-31 being the most downregulated microRNA in CAFs (p = 0.007). We examined several putative miR-31 target genes identified by microarray analysis and demonstrated that miR-31 directly targets the homeobox gene SATB2, which is responsible for chromatin remodeling and regulation of gene expression and was significantly elevated in CAFs. The functional relevance of miR-31 and SATB2 were tested in in vitro models of endometrial cancer. Overexpression of miR-31 significantly impaired the ability of CAFs to stimulate tumor cell migration and invasion without affecting tumor cell proliferation. Genetic manipulation of SATB2 levels in normal fibroblasts or CAFs showed that, reciprocally to miR-31, SATB2 increased tumor cell migration and invasion, while knockdown of endogenous SATB2 in CAFs reversed this phenotype. Introduction of SATB2 into normal fibroblasts stimulated expression of a number of genes involved in cell invasion, migration and scattering. These findings provide new insights into tumor-stroma interaction and document that miR-31 and its target gene SATB2 are involved in regulation of tumor cell motility.
doi:10.4161/cc.9.21.13674
PMCID: PMC3055190  PMID: 20980827
cancer-associated fibroblasts; microRNA; SATB2; endometrial cancer
11.  Fibroblasts produce brain-derived neurotrophic factor and induce mesenchymal transition of oral tumor cells 
Oral Oncology  2011;47(2-3):98-103.
Summary
Fibroblasts (Fibs) contribution to neoplastic progression, tumor growth, angiogenesis, and metastasis has been recently reported by several research groups. In this study it was investigated if fibroblasts are the source of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which plays a crucial role in the progression of oral squamous cell carcinoma.
In a novel in vitro system oral Fibs were cultured with SCC-25 lingual squamous cell carcinoma cells for 7 days. Factors related with this interaction were investigated by quantitative PCR and western blot.
In the co-culture, fibroblasts were converted to carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), which in return initiated epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) of SCC-25 cells. The induced CAFs produced increased levels of BDNF, which interacted with the increased-expressed neurothrophin receptor B (TrkB) on EMT-converted SCC-25 cells. Possible regulatory factors of BDNF expression (tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-1-β) were detected both in CAFs and EMT-tumor cells. In CAFs: IL-1β-, in SCC-25 cells TNF-α-gene-expression was significantly increased in co-culture conditions.
Activated fibroblasts (CAFs) and mesenchymal transitioned tumor cells might use the BDNF-TrkB axis and its regulation to harmonize their interaction in the process of tumor progression.
doi:10.1016/j.oraloncology.2010.11.002
PMCID: PMC3042593  PMID: 21147546
HNSCC; Neurotrophin; Metastasis; Tumor progression; SDF; Co-culture insert; Oral cancer
12.  MicroRNAs Reprogram Normal Fibroblasts into Cancer Associated Fibroblasts in Ovarian Cancer 
Cancer discovery  2012;2(12):1100-1108.
Cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are a major constituent of the tumor stroma, but little is known about how cancer cells transform normal fibroblasts into CAFs. miRNAs are small noncoding RNA molecules that negatively regulate gene expression at a posttranscriptional level. While it is clearly established that miRNAs are deregulated in human cancers, it is not known whether miRNA expression in resident fibroblasts is affected by their interaction with cancer cells. We found that in ovarian CAFs, miR-31 and miR-214 are downregulated while miR-155 is upregulated when compared to normal or tumor-adjacent fibroblasts. Mimicking this deregulation by transfecting miRNAs and miRNA inhibitors induced a functional conversion of normal fibroblasts into CAFs, and the reverse experiment resulted in the reversion of CAFs into normal fibroblasts. The miRNA-reprogrammed normal fibroblasts and patient-derived CAFs shared a large number of upregulated genes highly enriched in chemokines, which are known to be important for CAF function. The most highly upregulated chemokine, CCL5, was found to be a direct target of miR-214. These results indicate that ovarian cancer cells reprogram fibroblasts to become CAFs through the action of miRNAs. Targeting these miRNAs in stromal cells could have therapeutic benefit.
doi:10.1158/2159-8290.CD-12-0206
PMCID: PMC3685866  PMID: 23171795
13.  Expression, Tissue Distribution and Function of miR-21 in Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73009.
Objective
MiR-21 is an oncomir expressed by malignant cells and/or tumor microenvironment components. In this study we focused on understanding the effects of stromal miR-21 on esophageal malignant cells.
Design
MiR-21 expression was evaluated in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded samples from patients with esophageal squamous-cell carcinoma (SCC) by quantitative RT-PCR. MiR-21 tissue distribution was visualized with in situ hybridization. A co-culture system of normal fibroblasts and esophageal cancer cells was used to determine the effects of fibroblasts on miR-21 expression levels, and on SCC cell migration and invasion.
Results
MiR-21 was overexpressed in SCCs, when compared to the adjacent non-tumor tissues (P = 0.0007), and was mainly localized in the cytoplasm of stromal cells adjacent to malignant cells. Accordingly, miR-21 expression was increased in tumors with high versus low stromal content (P = 0.04). When co-cultured with normal fibroblasts, miR-21 expression was elevated in SCC cells (KYSE-30), while its expression was restricted to fibroblasts when co-cultured with adenocarcinoma cells (OE-33 and FLO-1). MiR-21 was detected in conditioned media of cancer cell lines, illustrating the release of this miRNA into the environment. Co-culturing with normal fibroblasts or addition of fibroblast conditioned media caused a significant increase in cell migration and invasion potency of KYSE-30 cells (P<0.0001). In addition, co-culturing cancer cells with fibroblasts and expression of miR-21 induced the expression of the cancer associated fibroblast (CAF) marker S100A4.
Conclusions
MiR-21 expression is mostly confined to the SCC stroma and its release from fibroblasts influences the migration and invasion capacity of SCC cells. Moreover, miR-21 may be an important factor in “activating” fibroblasts to CAFs. These findings provide new insights into the role of CAFs and the extracellular matrix in tumor microenvironment formation and in tumor cell maintenance, and suggest miR-21 may contribute to cellular crosstalk in the tumor microenvironment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073009
PMCID: PMC3769386  PMID: 24039846
14.  Cross-species functional analysis of cancer-associated fibroblasts identifies a critical role for CLCF1 and IL6 in non-small cell lung cancer in vivo 
Cancer research  2012;72(22):10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-1097.
Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) have been reported to support tumor progression by a variety of mechanisms. However, their role in the progression of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) remains poorly defined. In addition, the extent to which specific proteins secreted by CAFs contribute directly to tumor growth is unclear. To study the role of CAFs in NSCLC, a cross-species functional characterization of mouse and human lung CAFs was performed. CAFs supported the growth of lung cancer cells in vivo by secretion of soluble factors that directly stimulate the growth of tumor cells. Gene expression analysis comparing normal mouse lung fibroblasts (NFs) and mouse lung CAFs identified multiple genes that correlate with the CAF phenotype. A gene signature of secreted genes upregulated in CAFs was an independent marker of poor survival in NSCLC patients. This secreted gene signature was upregulated in NFs after long-term exposure to tumor cells, demonstrating that NFs are “educated” by tumor cells to acquire a CAF-like phenotype. Functional studies identified important roles for CLCF1-CNTFR and IL6-IL6R signaling, in promoting growth of NSCLC cells. This study identifies novel soluble factors contributing to the CAF protumorigenic phenotype in NSCLC and suggests new avenues for the development of therapeutic strategies.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-1097
PMCID: PMC3856949  PMID: 22962265
Carcinoma-associated fibroblasts; lung cancer; cytokines; il6; clcf1
15.  Carcinoma Associated Fibroblast Like Differentiation of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells 
Cancer research  2008;68(11):4331-4339.
Carcinoma associated fibroblasts (CAFs) have recently been implicated in important aspects of epithelial solid tumor biology such as neoplastic progression, tumor growth, angiogenesis, and metastasis. However, neither the source of CAFs nor the differences between CAFs and fibroblasts from non-neoplastic tissue have been well defined. In this study we demonstrate that human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) exposed to tumor-conditioned medium (TCM) over a prolonged period of time assume a CAF-like myofibroblastic phenotype. More importantly, these cells exhibit functional properties of CAFs including sustained expression of stromal derived factor 1 (SDF-1) and the ability to promote tumor cell growth both in vitro and in an in vivo co-implantation model and expression of myofibroblast markers including α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) and fibroblast surface protein (FSP). Human MSCs induced to differentiate to a myofibroblast-like phenotype using 5-azacytidine (5-aza) do not promote tumor cells growth as efficiently as hMSCs cultured in tumor-conditioned medium nor do they demonstrate increased SDF-1 expression. Furthermore, gene expression profiling revealed similarities between TCM exposed hMSCs and carcinoma associated fibroblasts. Taken together these data suggest that hMSCs are a source of carcinoma associated fibroblasts and can be used in the modeling of tumor-stroma interactions. To our knowledge this is the first report demonstrating that hMSCs become activated and resemble carcinoma associated myofibroblasts upon prolonged exposure to conditioned medium from MDAMB231 human breast cancer cells.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-0943
PMCID: PMC2725025  PMID: 18519693
Tumor microenvironment; SDF-1; myofibroblast; migration; differentiation
16.  Downregulation of TGF-beta receptor types II and III in oral squamous cell carcinoma and oral carcinoma-associated fibroblasts 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:88.
Background
The purpose of this study was to assess the expression levels for TβRI, TβRII, and TβRIII in epithelial layers of oral premalignant lesions (oral leukoplakia, OLK) and oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), as well as in oral carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), with the final goal of exploring the roles of various types of TβRs in carcinogenesis of oral mucosa.
Methods
Normal oral tissues, OLK, and OSCC were obtained from 138 previously untreated patients. Seven primary human oral CAF lines and six primary normal fibroblast (NF) lines were established successfully via cell culture. The three receptors were detected using immunohistochemical (IHC), quantitative RT-PCR, and Western blot approaches.
Results
IHC signals for TβRII and TβRIII in the epithelial layer decreased in tissue samples with increasing disease aggressiveness (P < 0.05); no expression differences were observed for TβRI, in OLK and OSCC (P > 0.05); and TβRII and TβRIII were significantly downregulated in CAFs compared with NFs, at the mRNA and protein levels (P < 0.05). Exogenous expression of TGF-β1 led to a remarkable decrease in the expression of TβRII and TβRIII in CAFs (P < 0.05).
Conclusion
This study provides the first evidence that the loss of TβRII and TβRIII expression in oral epithelium and stroma is a common event in OSCC. The restoration of the expression of TβRII and TβRIII in oral cancerous tissues may represent a novel strategy for the treatment of oral carcinoma.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-88
PMCID: PMC3055848  PMID: 21352603
17.  Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts Promote Proliferation of Endometrial Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68923.
Endometrial cancer is the most commonly diagnosed gynecologic malignancy worldwide; yet the tumor microenvironment, especially the fibroblast cells surrounding the cancer cells, is poorly understood. We established four primary cultures of fibroblasts from human endometrial cancer tissues (cancer-associated fibroblasts, CAFs) using antibody-conjugated magnetic bead isolation. These relatively homogenous fibroblast cultures expressed fibroblast markers (CD90, vimentin and alpha-smooth muscle actin) and hormonal (estrogen and progesterone) receptors. Conditioned media collected from CAFs induced a dose-dependent proliferation of both primary cultures and cell lines of endometrial cancer in vitro (175%) when compared to non-treated cells, in contrast to those from normal endometrial fibroblast cell line (51%) (P<0.0001). These effects were not observed in fibroblast culture derived from benign endometrial hyperplasia tissues, indicating the specificity of CAFs in affecting endometrial cancer cell proliferation. To determine the mechanism underlying the differential fibroblast effects, we compared the activation of PI3K/Akt and MAPK/Erk pathways in endometrial cancer cells following treatment with normal fibroblasts- and CAFs-conditioned media. Western blot analysis showed that the expression of both phosphorylated forms of Akt and Erk were significantly down-regulated in normal fibroblasts-treated cells, but were up-regulated/maintained in CAFs-treated cells. Treatment with specific inhibitors LY294002 and U0126 reversed the CAFs-mediated cell proliferation (P<0.0001), suggesting for a role of these pathways in modulating endometrial cancer cell proliferation. Rapamycin, which targets a downstream molecule in PI3K pathway (mTOR), also suppressed CAFs-induced cell proliferation by inducing apoptosis. Cytokine profiling analysis revealed that CAFs secrete higher levels of macrophage chemoattractant protein (MCP)-1, interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, RANTES and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) than normal fibroblasts. Our data suggests that in contrast to normal fibroblasts, CAFs may exhibit a pro-tumorigenic effect in the progression of endometrial cancer, and PI3K/Akt and MAPK/Erk signaling may represent critical regulators in how endometrial cancer cells respond to their microenvironment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068923
PMCID: PMC3724864  PMID: 23922669
18.  Reciprocal Interaction between Carcinoma-Associated Fibroblasts and Squamous Carcinoma Cells through Interleukin-1α Induces Cancer Progression12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2014;16(11):928-938.
Crosstalk between cancer cells and carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) has earned recognition as an interaction that plays a pivotal role in carcinogenesis. Thus, we attempted to clarify whether increase in the level of CAFs promotes cancer progression by proportionally enhancing the interaction between cancer cells and CAFs. We first analyzed clinical correlation between the levels of fibroblasts and cancer progression and found that the level of CAFs made a noticeable difference on the prognosis of patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). In vivo animal study also demonstrated that tumor volume depended on the dose of CAFs that was co-injected with OSCC cells. The same tendency was observed in an in vitro study. We also found that interleukin-1α (IL-1α) secreted from OSCC cells had dual effects on CAFs: IL-1α not only promoted the proliferation of CAFs but also upregulated the secretion of cytokines in CAFs such as CCL7, CXCL1, and IL-8. The induction activity of cytokine secretion by IL-1α surpassed that of proliferation in OSCC cells. In summary, we unraveled an important interactive mechanism of carcinogenesis: IL-1α released from carcinoma stimulates the proliferation of CAFs and the simultaneous increase in cytokine secretion from CAFs promotes cancer progression in human OSCC. On the basis of these findings, we propose that the level of CAFs is eligible for being selected as a prognostic factor that will be useful in routine diagnosis. We also propose that blockage of reciprocal interaction between cancer cells and CAFs will provide an insight for developing novel chemotherapeutic strategy.
doi:10.1016/j.neo.2014.09.003
PMCID: PMC4240921  PMID: 25425967
cancer progression; carcinoma-associated fibroblasts; interleukin-1 alpha; oral squamous cell carcinoma; reciprocal interaction
19.  p16INK4A Represses the paracrine tumor-promoting effects of breast stromal fibroblasts 
Oncogene  2012;32(18):2356-2364.
Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), the most abundant and probably the most active cellular component of breast cancer-associated stroma, promote carcinogenesis through paracrine effects; however, the molecular basis remains elusive. We have shown here that p16INK4A expression is reduced in 83% CAFs as compared with their normal adjacent counterparts cancer-free tissues isolated from the same patients. This decrease is mainly due to AUF1-dependent higher turnover of the CDKN2A mRNA in CAFs. Importantly, p16INK4A downregulation using specific siRNA activated breast fibroblasts and increased the expression/secretion levels of stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF-1) and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2. Consequently, media conditioned with these cells stimulated the proliferation of epithelial cells. Furthermore, the migration/invasion of breast cancer cells was also enhanced in an SDF-1-dependent manner. This effect was mediated through inducing an epithelial–mesenchymal transition state. By contrast, increase in p16INK4A level through ectopic expression or AUF1 downregulation, reduced the secreted levels of SDF-1 and MMP-2 and suppressed the pro-carcinogenic effects of CAFs. In addition, p16INK4A-defective fibroblasts accelerated breast tumor xenograft formation and growth rate in mice. Importantly, tumors formed in the presence of p16INK4A-defective fibroblasts exhibited higher levels of active Akt, Cox-2, MMP-2 and MMP-9, showing their greater aggressiveness as compared with xenografts formed in the presence of p16INK4A-proficient fibroblasts. These results provide the first indication that p16INK4A downregulation in breast stromal fibroblasts is an important step toward their activation.
doi:10.1038/onc.2012.270
PMCID: PMC3679618  PMID: 22751126
AUF1; breast cancer; cell nonautonomous tumor suppression; p16INK4A; stromal fibroblasts
20.  Breast fibroblasts modulate epithelial cell proliferation in three-dimensional in vitro co-culture 
Breast Cancer Research  2004;7(1):R46-R59.
Background
Stromal fibroblasts associated with in situ and invasive breast carcinoma differ phenotypically from fibroblasts associated with normal breast epithelium, and these alterations in carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAF) may promote breast carcinogenesis and cancer progression. A better understanding of the changes that occur in fibroblasts during carcinogenesis and their influence on epithelial cell growth and behavior could lead to novel strategies for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. To this end, the effect of CAF and normal breast-associated fibroblasts (NAF) on the growth of epithelial cells representative of pre-neoplastic breast disease was assessed.
Methods
NAF and CAF were grown with the nontumorigenic MCF10A epithelial cells and their more transformed, tumorigenic derivative, MCF10AT cells, in direct three-dimensional co-cultures on basement membrane material. The proliferation and apoptosis of MCF10A cells and MCF10AT cells were assessed by 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine labeling and TUNEL assay, respectively. Additionally, NAF and CAF were compared for expression of insulin-like growth factor II as a potential mediator of their effects on epithelial cell growth, by ELISA and by quantitative, real-time PCR.
Results
In relatively low numbers, both NAF and CAF suppressed proliferation of MCF10A cells. However, only NAF and not CAF significantly inhibited proliferation of the more transformed MCF10AT cells. The degree of growth inhibition varied among NAF or CAF from different individuals. In greater numbers, NAF and CAF have less inhibitory effect on epithelial cell growth. The rate of epithelial cell apoptosis was not affected by NAF or CAF. Mean insulin-like growth factor II levels were not significantly different in NAF versus CAF and did not correlate with the fibroblast effect on epithelial cell proliferation.
Conclusion
Both NAF and CAF have the ability to inhibit the growth of pre-cancerous breast epithelial cells. NAF have greater inhibitory capacity than CAF, suggesting that the ability of fibroblasts to inhibit epithelial cell proliferation is lost during breast carcinogenesis. Furthermore, as the degree of transformation of the epithelial cells increased they became resistant to the growth-inhibitory effects of CAF. Insulin-like growth factor II could not be implicated as a contributor to this differential effect of NAF and CAF on epithelial cell growth.
doi:10.1186/bcr949
PMCID: PMC1064098  PMID: 15642169
breast cancer; breast epithelium; fibroblast; insulin-like growth factor; stroma
21.  Palladin promotes invasion of pancreatic cancer cells by enhancing invadopodia formation in cancer-associated fibroblasts 
Oncogene  2013;33(10):1265-1273.
The stromal compartment surrounding epithelial-derived pancreatic tumors is thought to have a key role in the aggressive phenotype of this malignancy. Emerging evidence suggests that cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), the most abundant cells in the stroma of pancreatic tumors, contribute to the tumor’s invasion, metastasis and resistance to therapy, but the precise molecular mechanisms that regulate CAFs behavior are poorly understood. In this study, we utilized immortalized human pancreatic CAFs to investigate molecular pathways that control the matrix-remodeling and invasion-promoting activity of CAFs. We showed previously that palladin, an actin-associated protein, is expressed at high levels in CAFs of pancreatic tumors and other solid tumors, and also in an immortalized line of human CAFs. In this study, we found that short-term exposure of CAFs to phorbol esters reduced the number of stress fibers and triggered the appearance of individual invadopodia and invadopodial rosettes in CAFs. Molecular analysis of invadopodia revealed that their composition resembled that of similar structures (that is, invadopodia and podosomes) described in other cell types. Pharmacological inhibition and small interfering RNA knockdown experiments demonstrated that protein kinase C, the small GTPase Cdc42 and palladin were necessary for the efficient assembly of invadopodia by CAFs. In addition, GTPase activity assays showed that palladin contributes to the activation of Cdc42. In mouse xenograft experiments using a mixture of CAFs and tumor cells, palladin expression in CAFs promoted the rapid growth and metastasis of human pancreatic tumor cells. Overall, these results indicate that high levels of palladin expression in CAFs enhance their ability to remodel the extracellular matrix by regulating the activity of Cdc42, which in turn promotes the assembly of matrix-degrading invadopodia in CAFs and tumor cell invasion. Together, these results identify a novel molecular signaling pathway that may provide new molecular targets for the inhibition of pancreatic cancer metastasis.
doi:10.1038/onc.2013.68
PMCID: PMC3912215  PMID: 23524582
invasion; GTPases; Cdc42; actin; invadopodia; myofibroblasts
22.  Cancer-associated fibroblasts are positively correlated with metastatic potential of human gastric cancers 
Background
The prognosis of gastric cancer patients is difficult to predict because of defects in establishing the surgical-pathological features. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) have been found to play prominent role in promoting tumor growth, invasion and metastasis. Thus raises the hypothesis that the extent of CAFs prevalence may help to establish the prognosis of gastric cancer patients.
Methods
Immunochemistry and realtime-PCR experiments were carried out to compare the expression of proteins which are specific markers of CAFs or secreted by CAFs in the tumor and normal tissue specimens. The extent of CAFs' prevalence was graded according to immunochemical staining, and correlation was further analyzed between CAFs' prevalence and other tumor characteristics which may influence the prognosis of gastric cancer patients.
Results
Nearly 80 percent of normal gastric tissues were negative or weak positive for CAFs staining, while more than 60 percent of gastric cancer tissues were moderate or strong positive for CAFs staining. Realtime-PCR results also showed significant elevated expression of FAP, SDF-1 and TGF-β1 in gastric cancer tissues compared to normal gastric tissues. Further analysis showed that CAFs' prevalence was correlated with tumor size, depth of the tumor, lymph node metastasis, liver metastasis or peritoneum metastasis.
Conclusions
Reactive cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) were frequently accumulated in gastric cancer tissues, and the prevalence of CAFs was correlated with tumor size, depth of the tumor and tumor metastasis, thus give some supports for establishing the prognosis of the gastric cancer patients.
doi:10.1186/1756-9966-29-66
PMCID: PMC2892440  PMID: 20529313
23.  Transcription Factor Networks in Invasion-Promoting Breast Carcinoma-Associated Fibroblasts 
Cancer Microenvironment  2012;6(1):91-107.
Carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) contribute to both tumor growth and cancer progression. In this report, we applied an emerging transcription factor (TF) activity array to fibroblasts to capture the activity of the intracellular signaling network and to define a signature that distinguishes mammary CAFs from normal mammary fibroblasts. Normal fibroblasts that restrained cancer cell invasion developed into an invasion-promoting CAF phenotype through exposure to conditioned medium from MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. A myofibroblast-like CAF cell line expressing high levels of smooth muscle actin was compared to normal mammary fibroblasts before and after induction. Comparison of TF activity profiles for all three fibroblast types identified a TF activity signature common to CAFs which included activation of reporters for TFs ELK1, GATA1, retinoic acid receptor (RAR), serum response factor (SRF), and vitamin D receptor (VDR). Additionally, CAFs resembling myofibroblasts, relative to normal fibroblasts, had elevated activation corresponding to NF-kappaB, RUNX2, and YY1, and distinct activity patterns for several differentiation-related TF reporters. Induction of CAFs by exposure of normal fibroblasts to conditioned medium from MDA-MB-231 cells resulted in increased activation of reporters for HIF1, several STAT TFs, and proliferation-related TFs such as AP1. Myofibroblast-like CAFs and induced normal mammary fibroblasts promoted invasion of breast cancer cells by distinct mechanisms, consistent with their distinct patterns of TF activation. The TF activity profiles of CAF subtypes provide an overview of intracellular signaling associated with the induction of a pro-invasive stroma, and provide a mechanistic link between the microenvironmental stimuli and phenotypic response.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12307-012-0121-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s12307-012-0121-z
PMCID: PMC3601213  PMID: 23090154
Carcinoma-associated fibroblasts; Breast cancer; Transcription factors; Gene regulation; Induction
24.  Inoculated mammary carcinoma-associated fibroblasts: contribution to hormone independent tumor growth 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:293.
Background
Increasing evidence has underscored the role of carcinoma associated fibroblasts (CAF) in tumor growth. However, there are controversial data regarding the persistence of inoculated CAF within the tumors. We have developed a model in which murine metastatic ductal mammary carcinomas expressing estrogen and progesterone receptors transit through different stages of hormone dependency. Hormone dependent (HD) tumors grow only in the presence of progestins, whereas hormone independent (HI) variants grow without hormone supply. We demonstrated previously that CAF from HI tumors (CAF-HI) express high levels of FGF-2 and that FGF-2 induced HD tumor growth in vivo. Our main goal was to investigate whether inoculated CAF-HI combined with purified epithelial (EPI) HD cells can induce HD tumor growth.
Methods
Purified EPI cells of HD and HI tumors were inoculated alone, or together with CAF-HI, into female BALB/c mice and tumor growth was evaluated. In another set of experiments, purified EPI-HI alone or combined with CAF-HI or CAF-HI-GFP were inoculated into BALB/c or BALB/c-GFP mice. We assessed whether inoculated CAF-HI persisted within the tumors by analyzing inoculated or host CAF in frozen sections of tumors growing in BALB/c or BALB/c-GFP mice. The same model was used to evaluate early stages of tumor development and animals were euthanized at 2, 7, 12 and 17 days after EPI-HI or EPI-HI+CAF-HI inoculation. In angiogenesis studies, tumor vessels were quantified 5 days after intradermal inoculation.
Results
We found that admixed CAF-HI failed to induce epithelial HD tumor growth, but instead, enhanced HI tumor growth (p < 0.001). Moreover, inoculated CAF-HI did not persist within the tumors. Immunofluorescence studies showed that inoculated CAF-HI disappeared after 13 days. We studied the mechanisms by which CAF-HI increased HI tumor growth, and found a significant increase in angiogenesis (p < 0.05) in the co-injected mice at early time points.
Conclusions
Inoculated CAF-HI do not persist within the tumor mass although they play a role during the first stages of tumor formation promoting angiogenesis. This angiogenic environment is unable to replace the hormone requirement of HD tumors that still need the hormone to recruit the stroma from the host.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-293
PMCID: PMC2894798  PMID: 20553594
25.  MiR-26b is down-regulated in carcinoma-associated fibroblasts from ER-positive breast cancers leading to enhanced cell migration and invasion 
The Journal of Pathology  2013;231(3):388-399.
Carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) influence the behaviour of cancer cells but the roles of microRNAs in this interaction are unknown. We report microRNAs that are differentially expressed between breast normal fibroblasts and CAFs of oestrogen receptor-positive cancers, and explore the influences of one of these, miR-26b, on breast cancer biology. We identified differentially expressed microRNAs by expression profiling of clinical samples and a tissue culture model: miR-26b was the most highly deregulated microRNA. Using qPCR, miR-26b was confirmed as down-regulated in fibroblasts from 15 of 18 further breast cancers. Next, we examined whether manipulation of miR-26b expression changed breast fibroblast behaviour. Reduced miR-26b expression caused fibroblast migration and invasion to increase by up to three-fold in scratch-closure and trans-well assays. Furthermore, in co-culture with MCF7 breast cancer epithelial cells, fibroblasts with reduced miR-26b expression enhanced both MCF7 migration in trans-well assays and MCF7 invasion from three-dimensional spheroids by up to five-fold. Mass spectrometry was used to identify expression changes associated with the reduction of miR-26b expression in fibroblasts. Pathway analyses of differentially expressed proteins revealed that glycolysis/TCA cycle and cytoskeletal regulation by Rho GTPases are downstream of miR-26b. In addition, three novel miR-26b targets were identified (TNKS1BP1, CPSF7, COL12A1) and the expression of each in cancer stroma was shown to be significantly associated with breast cancer recurrence. MiR-26b in breast CAFs is a potent regulator of cancer behaviour in oestrogen receptor-positive cancers, and we have identified key genes and molecular pathways that act downstream of miR-26b in CAFs. © 2013 The Authors. Journal of Pathology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
doi:10.1002/path.4248
PMCID: PMC4030585  PMID: 23939832
fibroblast; stroma; microRNA; tumour microenvironment; microRNA-26b

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