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Transl Oncol. 2013 Apr;6(2):124-32. Epub 2013 Apr 1.

CXCR4 Expression and Treatment with SDF-1α or Plerixafor Modulate Proliferation and Chemosensitivity of Colon Cancer Cells.

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  • 1Molecular Oncology of Solid Tumors, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany ; Department of Experimental Surgery, Medical Faculty Mannheim, University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Germany.



Signaling through stromal cell-derived factor-1α (SDF-1α), strongly secreted by bone marrow stromal cells and the CXC chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) exposed on tumor cells has pivotal roles in proliferation, metastasis, and tumor cell "dormancy." Dormancy is associated with cytostatic drug resistance and is probably a property of tumor stem cells and minimal residual disease. Thus, hampering the SDF-1α/CXCR4 cross talk by a CXCR4 antagonist like Plerixafor (AMD3100) should overcome tumor cell dormancy bymobilization of tumor cells from "sanctuary" niches. Our aim was to elucidate the direct effects exerted by SDF-1α and Plerixafor on proliferation, chemosensitivity, and apoptosis of CXCR4-expressing tumor cells.


The ability of SDF-1α and Plerixafor to regulate intracellular signaling, proliferation, and invasion was investigated using two colon cancer cell lines (HT-29 and SW480) with either high endogenous or lentiviral expression of CXCR4 compared to their respective low CXCR4-expressing counterparts as a model system. Efficacy of Plerixafor on sensitivity of these cell lines against 5-fluorouracil, irinotecan, or oxaliplatin was determined in a cell viability assay as well as stroma-dependent cytotoxicity and apoptosis assays.


SDF-1α increased proliferation, invasion, and ERK signaling of endogenously and lentivirally CXCR4-expressing cells. Exposure to Plerixafor reduced proliferation, invasion, and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) signaling. Combination of chemotherapy with Plerixafor showed an additive effect on chemosensitivity and apoptosis in CXCR4-overexpressing cells. An SDF-1-secreting feeder layer provideda"protective niche" for CXCR4-overexpressing cells resulting in decreased chemosensitivity.


CXCR4-antagonistic therapy mobilizes and additionally sensitizes tumor cells toward cytoreductive chemotherapy.

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