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Cancer Res. 2001 Jun 1;61(11):4357-64.

Human cutaneous fatty acid-binding protein induces metastasis by up-regulating the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor gene in rat Rama 37 model cells.

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  • 1Molecular Pathology Laboratory, Department of Pathology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3BX, United Kingdom.


Human cutaneous fatty acid-binding protein (C-FABP) gene is capable of inducing the metastatic phenotype when overexpressed in nonmetastatic rat Rama 37 cells. However, the mechanism of how it induces metastasis is not clear. Northern and slot blot analyses revealed that expression of the endogenous vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) gene was increased by 3.8-5.2-fold in the C-FABP-transfected cells (pSV-CFABP-R37) and in their metastatic sublines (e.g., Met-1) when compared with that in the nonmetastatic control transfectant pSV-R37 cells generated by transfection of only plasmid DNA. Higher levels of VEGF immunoreactive protein were also secreted from the malignant C-FABP-expressing cells. Reverse transcription-PCR detected two VEGF transcript isoforms, VEGF(164) and VEGF(188), in both the nonmetastatic control transfectant pSV-R37 cells and the malignant metastatic Met-1 cells. Chick chorioallantoic membrane assays showed that the conditioned medium of the control pSV-R37 cells possessed only very weak angiogenic activity, whereas conditioned media from the metastatic C-FABP transfectants and their sublines were strongly angiogenic and could be inhibited by antibodies to VEGF. Transfection of VEGF(164) cDNA in an expression vector into nonmetastatic Rama 37 cells produced a cell clone (R37-VEGF-2) that expressed high levels of VEGF. Inoculation of R37-VEGF-2 cells into syngeneic Wistar Furth rats produced metastases in a significant number (Fisher's exact test, P < 0.01) of animals (18 of 31 animals), whereas the control, vector alone-transfected R37-PSV cells produced no metastases (0 of 30 animals). Immunocytochemical methods demonstrated a strong positive staining for VEGF and an increased microvessel density in the primary tumors produced from PSV-VEGF-2 cells in comparison with tumors produced from control transfectants. Immunocytochemical staining for factor VIII detected a 3.5-fold increase in microvessel density of the primary tumors produced by PSV-VEGF-2 cells when compared with that of the primary tumors developed from the control pSV-R37 cells. Therefore, we suggest that overexpression of the C-FABP gene in the original transfectants induces metastasis through up-regulation of expression of the VEGF gene in this rat Rama 37 model system, and thus VEGF may play a crucial role in this particular metastatic cascade.

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