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EMBO Rep. 2019 Jan;20(1). pii: e46556. doi: 10.15252/embr.201846556. Epub 2018 Dec 11.

GPER is a mechanoregulator of pancreatic stellate cells and the tumor microenvironment.

Author information

1
Cellular and Molecular Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London, London, UK.
2
Institute of Bioengineering, School of Engineering and Materials Science, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK s.thorpe@qmul.ac.uk a.del-rio-hernandez@imperial.ac.uk.
3
Institute of Bioengineering, School of Engineering and Materials Science, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK.
4
Cellular and Molecular Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London, London, UK s.thorpe@qmul.ac.uk a.del-rio-hernandez@imperial.ac.uk.

Abstract

The mechanical properties of the tumor microenvironment are emerging as attractive targets for the development of therapies. Tamoxifen, an agonist of the G protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPER), is widely used to treat estrogen-positive breast cancer. Here, we show that tamoxifen mechanically reprograms the tumor microenvironment through a newly identified GPER-mediated mechanism. Tamoxifen inhibits the myofibroblastic differentiation of pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs) in the tumor microenvironment of pancreatic cancer in an acto-myosin-dependent manner via RhoA-mediated contractility, YAP deactivation, and GPER signaling. This hampers the ability of PSCs to remodel the extracellular matrix and to promote cancer cell invasion. Tamoxifen also reduces the recruitment and polarization to the M2 phenotype of tumor-associated macrophages. Our results highlight GPER as a mechanical regulator of the tumor microenvironment that targets the three hallmarks of pancreatic cancer: desmoplasia, inflammation, and immune suppression. The well-established safety of tamoxifen in clinics may offer the possibility to redirect the singular focus of tamoxifen on the cancer cells to the greater tumor microenvironment and lead a new strategy of drug repurposing.

KEYWORDS:

GPER ; RhoA signaling; mechanotransduction; tamoxifen; tumor microenvironment

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