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Mol Cancer. 2019 Mar 30;18(1):64. doi: 10.1186/s12943-019-0976-4.

Crosstalk between cancer cells and tumor associated macrophages is required for mesenchymal circulating tumor cell-mediated colorectal cancer metastasis.

Wei C1,2,3, Yang C1,2,3, Wang S1,2,3, Shi D1,2,3, Zhang C1,2,3, Lin X1,2,3, Liu Q1,2,3, Dou R1,2,3, Xiong B4,5,6.

Author information

1
Department of Gastrointestinal Surgery & Department of Gastric and Colorectal Surgical Oncology, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan, China.
2
Hubei Key Laboratory of Tumor Biological Behaviors, Wuhan, China.
3
Hubei Cancer Clinical Study Center, Wuhan, China.
4
Department of Gastrointestinal Surgery & Department of Gastric and Colorectal Surgical Oncology, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan, China. binxiong1961@whu.edu.cn.
5
Hubei Key Laboratory of Tumor Biological Behaviors, Wuhan, China. binxiong1961@whu.edu.cn.
6
Hubei Cancer Clinical Study Center, Wuhan, China. binxiong1961@whu.edu.cn.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) are major components of tumor microenvironment that frequently associated with tumor metastasis in human cancers. Circulating tumor cell (CTC), originating from primary tumor sites, is considered to be the precursors of tumor metastasis. However, the regulatory mechanism of TAMs in CTC-mediated tumor metastasis still remains unclear.

METHODS:

Immunohistochemical staining was used to detect the macrophages infiltration (CD68 and CD163), epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) markers (E-cadherin and Vimentin) expression in serial sections of human colorectal cancer (CRC) specimens. Then, the correlations between macrophages infiltration and clinicopathologic features, mesenchymal CTC ratio, and patients' prognosis were analyzed. A co-culture assay in vitro was used to evaluate the role of TAMs on CRC EMT, migration and invasion, and ELISA, luciferase reporter assay and CHIP were performed to uncover the underlying mechanism. Furthermore, an in vivo model was carried out to confirm the effect of TAMs on mesenchymal CTC-mediated metastasis.

RESULTS:

Clinically, CD163+ TAMs infiltrated in invasive front was associated with EMT, mesenchymal CTC ratio, and poor prognosis in patients with CRC. CRC-conditioned macrophages regulated EMT program to enhance CRC cells migration and invasion by secreting IL6. TAMs-derived IL6 activated the JAK2/STAT3 pathway, and activated STAT3 transcriptionally inhibited the tumor suppressor miR-506-3p in CRC cells. miR-506-3p, a key miRNA regulating FoxQ1, was downregulated in CRC cells, resulting in increased FoxQ1 expression, which in turn led to the production of CCL2 that promoted macrophage recruitment. Inhibition of CCL2 or IL6 broke this loop and reduced macrophage migration and mesenchymal CTC-mediated metastasis, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our data indicates that TAMs induce EMT program to enhance CRC migration, invasion, and CTC-mediated metastasis by regulating the JAK2/STAT3/miR-506-3p/FoxQ1 axis, which in turn leads to the production of CCL2 that promote macrophage recruitment, revealing a new cross-talk between immune cells and tumor cells in CRC microenvironment.

KEYWORDS:

Circulating tumor cell; Colorectal cancer; EMT; Metastasis; Prognosis; Tumor-associated macrophages

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