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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
► Curcumin targets tumor–fibroblast interaction in head and neck cancer. ► Curcumin suppresses mediators of epithelial–mesenchymal transition. ► Curcumin decreases the invasivity of tumor cells.
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
Tenascin-C, an adhesion modulatory extracellular matrix molecule, is highly expressed in numerous human malignancies; thus, it may contribute to carcinogenesis and tumor progression. We explored the clinicopathological significance of Tenascin-C as a prognostic determinant of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC).
In ESCC patient tissues and cell lines, the presence of isoforms were examined using western blotting. We then investigated Tenascin-C immunohistochemical expression in 136 ESCC tissue samples. The clinical relevance of Tenascin-C expression and the correlation between Tenascin-C expression and expression of other factors related to cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) were also determined.
Both 250 and 350 kDa sized isoforms of Tenascin-C were expressed only in esophageal cancer tissue not in normal tissue. Furthermore, both isoforms were also identified in all of four CAFs derived from esophageal cancer tissues. Tenascin-C expression was remarkably higher in ESCC than in adjacent non-tumor esophageal epithelium (p < 0.001). Tenascin-C expression in ESCC stromal fibroblasts was associated with patient’s age, tumor (pT) stage, lymph node metastasis, clinical stage, and cancer recurrence. Tenascin-C expression in cancer cells was correlated with an increase in tumor-associated macrophage (TAM) population, cancer recurrence, and hypoxia inducible factor1α (HIF1α) expression. Moreover, Tenascin-C overexpression in cancer cells and stromal fibroblasts was an independent poor prognostic factor for overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS). In the Cox proportional hazard regression model, Tenascin-C overexpression in cancer cells and stromal fibroblasts was a significant independent hazard factor for OS and DFS in ESCC patients in both univariate and multivariate analyses. Furthermore, Tenascin-C expression in stromal fibroblasts of the ESCC patients was positively correlated with platelet-derived growth factor α (PDGFRα), PDGFRβ, and smooth muscle actin (SMA) expression. The 5-year OS and DFS rates were remarkably lower in patients with positive expressions of both Tenascin-C and PDGFRα (p < 0.001), Tenascin-C and PDGFRβ (p < 0.001), Tenascin-C and SMA (p < 0.001), Tenascin-C and fibroblast activation protein (FAP) (p < 0.001), and Tenascin-C and fibroblast-stimulating protein-1 (FSP1) (p < 0.001) in ESCC stromal fibroblasts than in patients with negative expressions of both Tenascin-C and one of the abovementioned CAF markers.
Our results show that Tenascin-C is a reliable and significant prognostic factor in ESCC. Tenascin-C may thus be a potent ESCC therapeutic target.
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.
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 , 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 , 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).
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
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.
Hyaluronan synthases (HAS) control the biosynthesis of hyaluronan (HA) and critically modulate the tumor microenviroment. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) affect the progression of a tumor by remolding the matrix. However, little is known about the role of HAS from CAFs in this process. This study aimed to determine the role of hyaluronan synthase 2 (HAS2) from CAFs in the progression of oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) invasion.
HAS isoforms 1, 2, and 3 in paired sets of CAFs and normal fibroblasts (NFs) were examined by real-time PCR, and the expression of HAS2 and α-SMA in OSCC tissue sections was further evaluated using immunohistochemical staining. Furthermore, we used a conditioned culture medium model to evaluate the effects of HAS2 from CAFs on the invasion and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) of the oral cancer cells Cal27. Finally, we compared the expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs) between CAFs and NF, and between CAFs with or without HAS2 knockdown using an antibody array and western blotting.
CAFs expressed higher levels of HAS2 than the paired NFs. HAS2 expression was consistent with α-SMA-positive myofibroblasts in the stroma of OSCC, and these were significantly correlated advanced clinical stages and cervical lymph node metastasis. Knocking down HAS2 with a specific siRNA or treatment with a HAS inhibitor markedly attenuated CAF-induced invasion and EMT of Cal27 cells. Higher MMP1 and lower TIMP1 levels were detected in the supernatants of CAFs relative to NFs. Knocking down HAS2 could decrease the expression of MMP1 and increase that of TIMP1 in CAFs.
HAS2 is one of the key regulators responsible for CAF-mediated OSCC progression and acts by modulating the balance of MMP1 and TIMP1.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13046-016-0458-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Cancer-associated fibroblasts; Hyaluronan synthase 2; Oral squamous cell carcinoma; Tumor microenviroment; Invasion; Metastasis
Cancer Associated Fibroblasts (CAFs) are thought to regulate tumor growth and metastasis. Fibroblast Activating Protein 1 (FAP-1) is a marker for fibroblast activation and by many recognized as the main marker of CAFs. Alpha Smooth Muscle Actin (α-SMA) is a general myofibroblast marker, and can be used to identify CAFs. This study investigates the prognostic impact of FAP-1 and α-SMA in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients and correlates their expression to 105 proteins investigated in the same cohort.
Tumor specimens from 536 NSCLC patients were obtained and tissue micro-arrays were constructed. Immunohistochemistry was used to evaluate the expression of FAP-1 and α-SMA and explore their impact on survival and association with other tumor molecular markers in NSCLC patients.
High expression of FAP-1, but not α-SMA, in squamous cell carcinoma (SCC, P = 0.043, HR = 0.63 95% CI 0.40–0.99) was significantly associated with increased disease-specific survival. FAP-1 and α-SMA were not significantly correlated to each other. Analyses of FAP-1 and α-SMA associated with other tumor-related proteins revealed histotype-specific correlation patterns.
The presence of FAP-1 expressing CAFs is an indicator of positive outcome for NSCLC-SCC patients. In addition, correlation analyses suggest FAP-1 and α-SMA to label different subsets of fibroblasts and their associations with other tumor-related proteins diverge according to histological subtype.
Chemo-resistance is still a major obstacle in efforts to overcome acute myeloid leukemia (AML). An emerging concept has proposed that interactions between the bone marrow (BM) microenvironment and leukemia cells reduce the sensitivity of the leukemia cells to chemotherapy. As an important element of the tumor microenvironment, the cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are considered to be activated modulators in the chemo-resistance of many solid tumors. But their contribution to AML has yet to be fully understood. Here we report a critical role for CAFs which were thought to be a survival and chemo-protective factor for leukemia cells.
A retrospective study on the BM biopsies from 63 primary AML patients and 59 normal controls was applied to quantitative analysis the fiber stroma in the BM sections. Then immunohistochemistry on the BM biopsies were used to detect the makers of the CAFs. Their effects on drug resistance of leukemia cells were further to be assessed by co-cultured experiments in vitro. Moreover, the possible mechanisms involved in CAF-mediated chemo-protection of AML cells was investigated by antibody neutralization and siRNA knockdown experiments, with particular emphasis on the role of GDF15.
In our study, excessive reticular fibers in the BM led to higher frequency of relapse and mortality in primary AML patients, bringing the inspiration for us to investigate the functional roles of the fiber-devied cells. We declared that the CAF cells which expressed higher levels of FSP1, α-SMA or FAP protein were widely distributed in the marrow of AML. Then in vitro co-cultured tests showed that these CAFs could protect leukemia cell lines (THP-1/K562) from chemotherapy. Interestingly, this effect could be decreased by either treatment with a neutralizing anti-GDF15 antibody or knockdown GDF15 (with siGDF15) in CAFs. Furthermore, we also confirmed that the GDF15+ cells mainly co-localized with FAP, which was identified as the typical phenotype of CAFs in the BM stroma.
We firstly demonstrate that the functional CAFs are widespread within the BM of AML patients and should be a critical chemo-protective element for AML cells by producing amount of GDF15.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13046-016-0405-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Bone marrow microenvironment; CAFs; Acute myeloid leukemia; GDF15
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
Transforming growth factor-β from scirrhous gastric carcinoma cells upregulates the number of myofibroblasts in CAFs.
myofibroblasts; cancer-associated fibroblasts; TGF-β; scirrhous gastric carcinoma; microenvironment; interaction
Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), the most common constituent of the tumor stoma, are known to promote tumor initiation, progression and metastasis. However, the mechanism of how cancer cells transform normal fibroblasts (NFs) into CAFs is largely unknown. In this study, we determined the contribution of miRNAs in the transformation of NFs into CAFs. We found that miR-1 and miR-206 were down-regulated, whereas miR-31 was up-regulated in lung CAFs when compared with matched NFs. Importantly, modifying the expression of these three deregulated miRNAs induced a functional conversion of NFs into CAFs and vice versa. When the miRNA-reprogrammed NFs and CAFs were co-cultured with lung cancer cells (LCCs), a similar pattern of cytokine expression profiling were observed between two groups. Using a combination of cytokine expression profiling and miRNAs algorithms, we identified VEGFA/CCL2 and FOXO3a as direct targets of miR-1, miR-206 and miR-31, respectively. Importantly, systemic delivery of anti-VEGFA/CCL2 or pre-miR-1, pre-miR-206 and anti-miR-31 significantly inhibited tumor angiogenesis, TAMs accumulation, tumor growth and lung metastasis. Our results show that miRNAs-mediated FOXO3a/VEGF/CCL2 signaling plays a prominent role in LCCs-mediated NFs into CAFs, which may have clinical implications for providing novel biomarker(s) and potential therapeutic target(s) of lung cancer in the future.
During tumorigenesis, normal fibroblasts (NFs) within the tumor stroma acquire a modified phenotype and become cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). CAFs provide oncogenic signals to facilitate tumor initiation, progression, and metastasis. Here, we set out to determine the factors that mediate the conversion of NFs into CAFs, focusing on miRNAs and secreted factors. Down-regulation of miR-1 and miR-206 and upregulation of miR-31 were found in CAFs derived from human lung cancer compared to paired NFs. Dysregulation of miR-1, miR-206 and miR-31 expression promotes the conversion of NFs into CAFs through regulating VEGFA, CCL2 and FOXO3a expression. In addition, down-regulation of miR-1 and miR-206 and up-regulation of miR-31 has been observed in lung cancer patient plasma. More importantly, we demonstrated that systemic delivery of anti-VEGFA/CCL2 or pre-miR-1, pre-miR-206 and anti-miR-31 dramatically decreased tumor angiogenesis, TAMs accumulation, tumor growth and lung metastasis. In conclusion, our data showed that miRNAs-mediated FOXO3a/VEGF/CCL2 signaling plays a prominent role in transforming NFs into CAFs, thus providing further support for the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to lung cancer.
Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) are a major constituent of the pancreatic cancer microenvironment and that the meaning is as intended. Pancreatic cancer cells can induce normal fibroblasts to convert into CAF and, reciprocally, CAF promote tumor invasions and proliferations. The mechanism of the conversion from normal fibroblasts (NF) to CAF remains unclear. MicroRNA are short non-coding RNA involved in the post-transcription gene regulation, which have been defined as an imperative controller in tumor invasions, proliferations and colony formations. Microvesicles (MV) have been proved to be an important mediator of intercellular communication and can selectively transport secreted microRNA from a donor cell into a recipient cell. In this study, we isolated primary pancreatic fibroblasts from wild type C57 mice and co-cultured them with pancreatic cancer cell lines, BxPC-3 and SW1990, and observed the conversion from NF to CAF, or at least CAF-like cells. This phenomenon could also be replicated in primary fibroblasts treated with MV separated from a cancer cell media. We identified that miR-155 was upregulated in PaC-derived MV and we confirmed that normal fibroblasts could convert into CAF after MV containing miR-155 had been taken up. TP53INP1 is a target of miR-155 in fibroblasts and a downregulation of TP53INP1 protein levels could contribute to the fibroblasts’ activation. These results indicated that pancreatic cancer cells might reprogram normal adjacent fibroblasts into CAF by means of secreted MV containing miR-155. Targeting the circulating microRNA might be a potential therapy for malignant tumors.
Cancer-associated fibroblast; microRNA; microvesicle; pancreatic neoplasm; tumor microenvironment
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.
Oxidative stress; Reactive oxygen species; Breast cancer; Microenvironment; Stroma-associated fibroblasts; Myofibroblasts; Cancer-associated fibroblasts
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.
Podoplanin; cancer-associated fibroblast; esophagus; squamous cell carcinoma; prognosis
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.
Fibroblasts are major cellular components of the breast cancer stroma, and influence the growth, survival and invasion of epithelial cells. Compared to normal tissue fibroblasts, carcinoma associated fibroblasts (CAFs) show increased expression of numerous soluble factors including growth factors and cytokines. However, the mechanisms regulating expression of these factors remain poorly understood. Recent studies have shown that breast CAFs overexpress the chemokine CXCL1, a key regulator of tumor invasion and chemo-resistance. Increased expression of CXCL1 in CAFs correlated with poor patient prognosis, and was associated with decreased expression of TGF-β signaling components. The goal of these studies was to understand the role of TGF-β in regulating CXCL1 expression in CAFs, using cell culture and biochemical approaches. We found that TGF-β treatment decreased CXCL1 expression in CAFs, through Smad2/3 dependent mechanisms. Chromatin immunoprecipitation and site-directed mutagenesis assays revealed two new binding sites in the CXCL1 promoter important for Smad2/3 modulation of CXCL1 expression. Smad2/3 proteins also negatively regulated expression of Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF), which was found to positively regulate CXCL1 expression in CAFs through c-Met receptor dependent mechanisms. HGF/c-Met signaling in CAFs was required for activity of NF-κB, a transcriptional activator of CXCL1 expression. These studies indicate that TGF-β negatively regulates CXCL1 expression in CAFs through Smad2/3 binding to the promoter, and through suppression of HGF/c-Met autocrine signaling. These studies reveal novel insight into how TGF-β and HGF, key tumor promoting factors modulate CXCL1 chemokine expression in CAFs.
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.
cancer-associated fibroblasts; microRNA; SATB2; endometrial cancer
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.
HNSCC; Neurotrophin; Metastasis; Tumor progression; SDF; Co-culture insert; Oral cancer
Carcinoma associated fibroblasts (CAFs) form the main constituents of tumor stroma and play an important role in tumor growth and invasion. The presence of CAFs is a strong predictor of poor prognosis of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Despite significant progress in determining the role of CAFs in tumor progression, the mechanisms contributing to their activation remain poorly characterized, in part due to fibroblast heterogeneity and the scarcity of reliable fibroblast surface markers. To search for such markers in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), we applied a novel approach that uses RNA-sequencing data derived from the cancer genome atlas (TCGA). Specifically, our strategy allowed for an unbiased identification of genes whose expression was closely associated with a set of bona fide stroma-specific transcripts, namely the interstitial collagens COL1A1, COL1A2, and COL3A1. Among the top hits were genes involved in cellular matrix remodeling and tumor invasion and migration, including platelet-derived growth factor receptor beta (PDGFRβ), which was found to be the highest-ranking receptor protein genome-wide. Similar analyses performed on ten additional TCGA cancer datasets revealed that other tumor types shared CAF markers with OSCC, including PDGFRβ, which was found to significantly correlate with the reference collagen expression in ten of the 11 cancer types tested. Subsequent immunostaining of OSCC specimens demonstrated that PDGFRβ was abundantly expressed in stromal fibroblasts of all tested cases (12/12), while it was absent in tumor cells, with greater specificity than other known markers such as alpha smooth muscle actin or podoplanin (3/11). Overall, this study identified PDGFRβ as a novel marker of stromal activation in OSCC, and further characterized a list of promising candidate CAF markers that may be relevant to other carcinomas. Our novel approach provides for a fast and accurate method to identify CAF markers without the need for large-scale immunostaining experiments.
Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are believed to play an essential role in cancer initiation and development. However, little research has been undertaken to evaluate the role of CAFs in endometrial cancer (EC) progression. We aim to detect the functional contributions of CAFs to promote progression of EC.
Stromal fibroblasts were isolated from endometrioid adenocarcinomas and normal endometrial tissues. The conditioned media of cultured CAFs and normal fibroblasts (NFs) were collected to detect the level of stromal cell-derived factor-1alpha (SDF-1α), macrophage chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), migration inhibitory factor (MIF), colony stimulating factor-1 (CSF-1), and interleukin-1 (IL-1) by ELISA. The CAFs or NFs were cocultured with EC cell lines to determine the proliferation, migration, and invasion by MTT assays and transwell chambers. Xenograft models were used to observe tumor growth. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMP)-2 and MMP-9 activity was evaluated by zymography. AMD3100 (a chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) antagonist) was used to block the SDF-1/CXCR4 axis. Neutralizing antibodies were used to detect PI3K/Akt and MAPK/Erk pathways by western blotting. SDF-1α and CXCR4 expressions were analyzed in xenotransplanted tumors and 348 cases by immunohistochemistry.
CAFs promoted proliferation, migration, and invasion as well as in vivo tumorigenesis of admixed EC cells significantly more than NFs by secreting SDF-1α. These effects were significantly inhibited by AMD3100. CAFs promoted EC progression via the SDF-1α/CXCR4 axis to activate the PI3K/Akt and MAPK/Erk signalings in a paracrine-dependent manner or increase MMP-2 and MMP-9 secretion in an autocrine-dependent manner. SDF-1α and CXCR4 expression upregulation accompanied clinical EC development and progression. High SDF-1α expression levels were associated with deep myometrial invasion, lymph node metastasis, and poor prognosis in EC.
Our data indicated that CAFs derived from EC tissues promoted EC progression via the SDF-1/CXCR4 axis in a paracrine- or autocrine-dependent manner. SDF-1α is a novel independent poor prognostic factor for EC patients’ survival. Targeting the SDF-1/CXCR4 axis might provide a novel therapeutic strategy for EC treatment.
Tumor microenvironment; Cancer-associated fibroblasts; Endometrial cancer; Stromal cell-derived factor-1α; CXCR4; Prognosis
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.
Despite the recognised contribution of the stroma to breast cancer development and progression, the effective targeting of the tumor microenvironment remains a challenge to be addressed. We previously reported that normal fibroblasts (NFs) and, notably, breast cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) induced epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and increases in cell membrane fluidity and migration in well- (MCF-7) and poorly-differentiated (MDA-MB-231) breast cancer cells. This study was designed to better define the role played, especially by CAFs, in promoting breast tumor cell migration.
Fibroblast/breast cancer cell co-cultures were set up to investigate the influence of NFs and CAFs on gene and protein expression of Stearoyl-CoA desaturase 1 (SCD1), the main enzyme regulating membrane fluidity, as well as on the protein level and activity of its transcription factor, the sterol regulatory element-binding protein 1 (SREBP1), in MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells. To assess the role of SREBP1 in the regulation of SCD1 expression, the desaturase levels were also determined in tumor cells treated with an SREBP1 inhibitor. Migration was evaluated by wound-healing assay in SCD1-inhibited (by small-interfering RNA (siRNA) or pharmacologically) cancer cells and the effect of CAF-conditioned medium was also assessed. To define the role of stroma-derived signals in cancer cell migration speed, cell-tracking analysis was performed in the presence of neutralising antibodies to hepatocyte growth factor, transforming growth factor-β or basic fibroblast growth factor.
A two to three fold increase in SCD1 mRNA and protein expression has been induced, particularly by CAFs, in the two cancer cell lines that appear to be dependent on SREBP1 activity in MCF-7 but not in MDA-MB-231 cells. Both siRNA-mediated and pharmacological inhibition of SCD1 impaired tumor cells migration, also when promoted by CAF-released soluble factors. Fibroblast-triggered increase in cancer cell migration speed was markedly reduced or abolished by neutralising the above growth factors.
These results provide further insights in understanding the role of CAFs in promoting tumor cell migration, which may help to design new stroma-based therapeutic strategies.
breast cancer cells; fibroblasts; SCD1; SREBP1; cell migration
The prostate cancer (PCa) microenvironment contains active stromal cells known as cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) that may play important roles in influencing tumor progression. Here we studied the role of CAF estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) and found that it could protect against PCa invasion. Immunohistochemistry on prostatectomy specimens showed that PCa patients with ERα-positive stroma had a significantly lower risk for biochemical recurrence. In vitro invasion assays further confirmed that the stromal ERα was able to reduce PCa cell invasion. Dissection of the molecular mechanism revealed that the CAF ERα could function through a CAF–epithelial interaction via selectively upregulating thrombospondin 2 (Thbs2) and downregulating matrix metalloproteinase 3 (MMP3) at the protein and messenger RNA levels. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays further showed that ERα could bind to an estrogen response element on the promoter of Thbs2. Importantly, knockdown of Thbs2 led to increased MMP3 expression and interruption of the ERα mediated invasion suppression, providing further evidence of an ERα–Thbs2–MMP3 axis in CAF. In vivo studies using athymic nude mice injected with CWR22Rv1 (22Rv1) PCa epithelial cells and CAF cells ± ERα also confirmed that mice coimplanted with PCa cells and CAF ERα+ cells had less tumor foci in the pelvic lymph nodes, less metastases, and tumors showed less angiogenesis, MMP3, and MMP9 (an MMP3 downstream target) positive staining. Together, these data suggest that CAF ERα could play protective roles in suppressing PCa metastasis. Our results may lead to developing new and alternative therapeutic approaches to battle PCa via controlling ERα signaling in CAF.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oral tongue squamous cell carcinoma (OTSCC) is still associated with a poor prognosis due to local recurrence and metastasis. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) play an important role in the complex processes of cancer stroma interaction and tumorigenesis. This study aims to determine the role of CAFs in the development and progression of OTSCC.
Immunohistochemistry was performed to evaluate the frequency and distribution of CAFs in 178 paraffin specimens from patients with OTSCC. Immunofluorescence, a cell proliferation assay, flow cytometry, migration and invasion assays and western blot analysis were used to study the effects of CAFs and the corresponding conditioned medium (CM) on the proliferation and invasion of OTSCC cell lines.
Statistical analysis showed a strong correlation between the frequency and distribution of CAFs and the clinicopathological characteristics of patients with cN0 OTSCC, including pathological stage (P = 0.001), T classification (P = 0.001), and N classification (P = 0.009). Survival analysis demonstrated a negative correlation of the frequency and distribution of CAFs with the overall survival and disease-free survival of patients with cN0 tongue squamous cell cancer (P = 0.009, 0.002, respectively); Cox regression analysis showed that the presence of CAFs (relative risk: 2.113, CI 1.461–3.015, P = 0.023) is an independent prognostic factor. A functional study demonstrated that CAFs and CM from CAFs could promote the growth, proliferation, mobility, invasion and even Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) of OTSCC cells compared with NFs and CM from NFs.
CAFs were an independent prognostic factor for patients with OTSCC. Compared with NFs, CAFs and their CM have the ability to promote the growth, proliferation, metastasis and even EMT of OTSCC cells.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12967-015-0551-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Oral tongue squamous cell cancer; Microenvironment; Cancer-associated fibroblast; Progression