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Clin Exp Metastasis. 2015 Jun;32(5):495-505. doi: 10.1007/s10585-015-9722-5. Epub 2015 May 16.

Activation of tumour cell ECM degradation by thrombin-activated platelet membranes: potentially a P-selectin and GPIIb/IIIa-dependent process.

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Cancer & Vascular Biology Group, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, The Australian National University, Building 131, Garran Rd, Acton, Canberra, ACT, 2601, Australia.


The promotion of tumour metastasis by platelets may occur through several mechanisms including the induction of a more metastatic phenotype in tumour cells and assisted extravasation of circulating tumour cells. Whilst the mechanisms underlying platelet-assisted extravasation have been extensively studied, much less attention has been paid to the mechanisms underlying platelet promotion of an aggressive phenotype within a tumour cell population. Herein, we demonstrate in vitro that MDA-MB-231 breast carcinoma cells incubated with washed thrombin-activated platelet membranes adopt a Matrigel-degrading phenotype in a dose- and contact time-dependent manner. The same phenotypic change was observed with three other human tumour cell lines of diverse anatomical origin. Moreover, tumour cell lines that had been cultured with washed thrombin-activated platelet membranes had a greater metastatic capacity when injected into mice. This in vivo effect was reliant upon a co-incubation period of >2 h implying a mechanism involving more than platelet membrane binding that occurred within 5 min. Upon further investigation it was found that simultaneous blocking of the platelet-membrane proteins P-selectin and GPIIb/IIIa prevented interactions between platelet membranes and MDA-MB-231 cells but also significantly reduced the ability of tumour cells to degrade Matrigel. These results confirm that platelets induce a more aggressive phenotype in tumour cells but also identify the platelet proteins involved in this effect. P-selectin and GPIIb/IIIa also play a role in assisting tumour cell extravasation and, thus, are ideal targets for the therapeutic intervention of both stages of platelet-assisted metastasis.

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