Send to

Choose Destination
Cytometry A. 2018 Jul;93(9):941-951. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.23101. Epub 2017 Apr 6.

The fibroblast surface markers FAP, anti-fibroblast, and FSP are expressed by cells of epithelial origin and may be altered during epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition.

Author information

Department of Cytokinetics, Institute of Biophysics of the CAS, v.v.i, Brno, Czech Republic.
International Clinical Research Center, St. Anne's University Hospital Brno, Brno, Czech Republic.
Department of Clinical and Molecular Pathology, Institute of Molecular and Translational Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic.
Department of Comprehensive Cancer Care, Masaryk Memorial Cancer Institute, Brno, Czech Republic.
Department of Experimental Biology, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic.
Department of Urology, University Hospital Olomouc, Olomouc, Czech Republic.


The identification of fibroblasts and cancer-associated fibroblasts from human cancer tissue using surface markers is difficult, especially because the markers used currently are usually not expressed solely by fibroblasts, and the identification of fibroblast-specific surface molecules is still under investigation. It was aimed to compare three commercially available antibodies in the detection of different surface epitopes of fibroblasts (anti-fibroblast, fibroblast activation protein α, and fibroblast surface protein). The specificity of their expression, employing fibroblast cell lines and tumor-derived fibroblasts from breast and prostate tissues was investigated. Both the established fibroblast cell line HFF-1 and ex vivo primary fibroblasts isolated from breast and prostate cancer tissues expressed the tested surface markers to different degrees. Surprisingly, those markers were expressed also by permanent cell lines of epithelial origin, both benign and cancer-derived (breast-cell lines MCF 10A, HMLE and prostate-cell lines BPH-1, DU 145, and PC-3). The expression of fibroblast activation protein α increased on the surface of previously described models of epithelial cells undergoing epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in response to treatment with TGF-β1. To prove the co-expression of the fibroblast markers on cells of epithelial origin, we used freshly dissociated human prostate and breast cancer tissues. The results confirmed the co-expression of anti-fibroblast and fibroblast surface protein on CD31/CD45-negative/EpCAM-positive epithelial cells. In summary, our data support the findings that the tested fibroblast markers are not fibroblast specific and may be expressed also by cells of epithelial origin (e.g., cells undergoing EMT). Therefore, the expression of these markers should be interpreted with caution, and the combination of several epitopes for both positive (anti-fibroblast or fibroblast activation protein α) and negative (EpCAM) identification of fibroblasts from breast and prostate tumor tissues is advised.


anti-fibroblast; cancer-associated fibroblasts; epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition; fibroblast activation protein α; fibroblast surface protein


Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center