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TGF-β1-mediated transition of resident fibroblasts to cancer-associated fibroblasts promotes cancer metastasis in gastrointestinal stromal tumor
Oncogenesis  (IF7.485),  Pub Date : 2021-02-06, DOI: 10.1038/s41389-021-00302-5
Hyunho Yoon, Chih-Min Tang, Sudeep Banerjee, Antonio L. Delgado, Mayra Yebra, Jacob Davis, Jason K. Sicklick

Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are the most abundant cells in the tumor microenvironment. Crosstalk between tumor cells and CAFs contributes to tumor survival in most epithelial cancers. Recently, utilizing gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) as a model for sarcomas, we identified paracrine networks by which CAFs promote tumor progression and metastasis. However, the mechanisms by which CAFs arise in sarcomas remain unclear. Here, RNA sequencing analysis revealed that transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) is highly expressed in both tumor cells and CAFs. To determine the functional role of TGF-β1, we treated normal gastric fibroblasts (GFs) with recombinant TGF-β1, which caused the GFs to adopt a more stellate morphology, as well as increased the mRNA expression of CAF-mediated genes (CCL2, RAB3B, and TNC) and genes encoding fibroblast growth factors (FGFs). Moreover, while either GIST or CAF conditioned media enhanced the transition from GFs to CAFs, a TGF-β1-blocking antibody attenuated this effect. Transwell migration assays revealed that the TGF-β1-mediated transition from GFs to CAFs enhanced tumor cell migration. This migratory effect was abrogated by an anti-TGF-β1 antibody, suggesting that TGF-β1 secreted from GIST cells or CAFs is associated with GIST migration via GF-to-CAF transition. In addition, the murine spleen-to-liver metastasis model showed that GF pre-treated with TGF-β1 promoted GIST metastasis. Collectively, these findings reveal unappreciated crosstalk among tumor cells, CAFs, and normal resident fibroblasts in the stroma of sarcomas, which enhances a GF-to-CAF transition associated with tumor migration and metastasis.