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BMC Cancer. 2012 Aug 3;12:341. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-12-341.

The role of versican G3 domain in regulating breast cancer cell motility including effects on osteoblast cell growth and differentiation in vitro - evaluation towards understanding breast cancer cell bone metastasis.

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Sunnybrook Research Institute, Toronto, ON, Canada.



Versican is detected in the interstitial tissues at the invasive margins of breast carcinoma, is predictive of relapse, and negatively impacts overall survival rates. The versican G3 domain is important in breast cancer cell growth, migration and bone metastasis. However, mechanistic studies evaluating versican G3 enhanced breast cancer bone metastasis are limited.


A versican G3 construct was exogenously expressed in the 66c14 and the MC3T3-E1 cell line. Cells were observed through light microscopy and viability analyzed by Coulter Counter or determined with colorimetric proliferation assays. The Annexin V-FITC apoptosis detection kit was used to detect apoptotic activity. Modified Chemotactic Boyden chamber migration invasion assays were applied to observe tumor migration and invasion to bone stromal cells and MC3T3-E1 cells. Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) staining and ALP ELISA assays were performed to observe ALP activity in MC3T3-E1 cells.


In the four mouse breast cancer cell lines 67NR, 66c14, 4T07, and 4T1, 4T1 cells expressed higher levels of versican, and showed higher migration and invasion ability to MC3T3-E1 cells and primary bone stromal cells. 4T1 conditioned medium (CM) inhibited MC3T3-E1 cell growth, and even lead to apoptosis. Only 4T1 CM prevented MC3T3-E1 cell differentiation, noted by inhibition of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity. We exogenously expressed a versican G3 construct in a cell line that expresses low versican levels (66c14), and observed that the G3-expressing 66c14 cells showed enhanced cell migration and invasion to bone stromal and MC3T3-E1 cells. This observation was prevented by selective EGFR inhibitor AG1478, selective MEK inhibitor PD 98059, and selective AKT inhibitor Triciribine, but not by selective JNK inhibitor SP 600125. Versican G3 enhanced breast cancer cell invasion to bone stromal cells or osteoblast cells appears to occur through enhancing EGFR/ERK or AKT signaling. G3 expressing MC3T3-E1 cells showed inhibited cell growth and cell differentiation when cultured with TGF-β1 (1 ng/ml), and expressed enhanced cell apoptosis when cultured with TNF-α (2 ng/ml). Enhanced EGFR/JNK signaling appears to be responsible for G3 enhanced osteoblast apoptosis and inhibited osteoblast differentiation. Whereas repressed expression of GSK-3β (S9P) contributes to G3 inhibited osteoblast growth. Versican G3 functionality was dependent on its EGF-like motifs. Without the structure of EGF-like repeats, the G3 domain would not confer enhancement of tumor cell migration and invasion to bone with concordant inhibition of osteoblast differentiation and promotion of osteoblast apoptosis.


Versican enhances breast cancer bone metastasis not only through enhancing tumor cell mobility, invasion, and survival in bone tissues, but also by inhibiting pre-osteoblast cell growth, differentiation, which supply favorable microenvironments for tumor metastasis.

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