Tumor Endothelial Cells with Distinct Patterns of TGFβ-Driven Endothelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition.
Endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EndMT) occurs during development and underlies the pathophysiology of multiple diseases. In tumors, unscheduled EndMT generates cancer-associated myofibroblasts that fuel inflammation and fibrosis, and may contribute to vascular dysfunction that promotes tumor progression. We report that freshly isolated subpopulations of tumor-specific endothelial cells (TEC) from a spontaneous mammary tumor model undergo distinct forms of EndMT in response to TGFβ stimulation. Although some TECs strikingly upregulate α smooth muscle actin (SMA), a principal marker of EndMT and activated myofibroblasts, counterpart normal mammary gland endothelial cells (NEC) showed little change in SMA expression after TGFβ treatment. Compared with NECs, SMA(+) TECs were 40% less motile in wound-healing assays and formed more stable vascular-like networks in vitro when challenged with TGFβ. Lineage tracing using ZsGreen(Cdh5-Cre) reporter mice confirmed that only a fraction of vessels in breast tumors contain SMA(+) TECs, suggesting that not all endothelial cells (EC) respond identically to TGFβ in vivo. Indeed, examination of 84 TGFβ-regulated target genes revealed entirely different genetic signatures in TGFβ-stimulated NEC and TEC cultures. Finally, we found that basic FGF (bFGF) exerts potent inhibitory effects on many TGFβ-regulated genes but operates in tandem with TGFβ to upregulate others. ECs challenged with TGFβ secrete bFGF, which blocks SMA expression in secondary cultures, suggesting a cell-autonomous or lateral-inhibitory mechanism for impeding mesenchymal differentiation. Together, our results suggest that TGFβ-driven EndMT produces a spectrum of EC phenotypes with different functions that could underlie the plasticity and heterogeneity of the tumor vasculature.
Xiao, L; Kim, DJ; Davis, CL; McCann, JV; Dunleavey, JM; Vanderlinden, AK; Xu, N; Pattenden, SG; Frye, SV; Xu, X; Onaitis, M; Monaghan-Benson, E; Burridge, K; Dudley, AC
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