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J Immunol. 2011 Oct 1;187(7):3806-14. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1101245. Epub 2011 Aug 31.

The process of macrophage migration promotes matrix metalloproteinase-independent invasion by tumor cells.

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  • 1Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut de Pharmacologie et de Biologie Structurale, Unité Mixte de Recherche 5089, 31077 Toulouse, France.


Tumor-associated macrophages are known to amplify the malignant potential of tumors by secreting a variety of cytokines and proteases involved in tumor cell invasion and metastasis, but how these macrophages infiltrate tumors and whether the macrophage migration process facilitates tumor cell invasion remain poorly documented. To address these questions, we used cell spheroids of breast carcinoma SUM159PT cells as an in vitro model of solid tumors. We found that macrophages used both the mesenchymal mode requiring matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and the amoeboid migration mode to infiltrate tumor cell spheroids. Whereas individual SUM159PT cells invaded Matrigel using an MMP-dependent mesenchymal mode, when they were grown as spheroids, tumor cells were unable to invade the Matrigel surrounding spheroids. When spheroids were infiltrated or in contact with macrophages, tumor cell invasiveness was restored. It was dependent on the capacity of macrophages to remodel the matrix and migrate in an MMP-independent mesenchymal mode. This effect of macrophages was much reduced when spheroids were infiltrated by Matrigel migration-defective Hck(-/-) macrophages. In the presence of macrophages, SUM159PT migrated into Matrigel in the proximity of macrophages and switched from an MMP-dependent mesenchymal migration to an amoeboid mode resistant to protease inhibitors.Thus, in addition to the well-described paracrine loop between macrophages and tumor cells, macrophages can also contribute to the invasiveness of tumor cells by remodeling the extracellular matrix and by opening the way to exit the tumor and colonize the surrounding tissues in an MMP-dispensable manner.

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