Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are heterogeneous cell populations that influence tumor initiation and progression. CD146 is a cell membrane protein whose expression has been implicated in multiple human cancers. CD146 expression is also detected in pancreatic cancer stroma; however, the role it plays in this context remains unclear. This study aimed to clarify the function and significance of CD146 expression in pancreatic cancer. We performed immunohistochemical staining to investigate the prevalence of CD146 expression in stromal fibroblasts in pancreatic cancer. We also examined the influence of CD146 on CAF-mediated tumor invasion and migration and CAF activation using CD146 small interfering RNA or overexpression plasmids in primary cultures of CAFs derived from pancreatic cancer tissues. CD146 expression in CAFs was associated with high-grade pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia and low histological grade invasive ductal carcinoma of the pancreas, while patients with low CD146 expression had a poorer prognosis. Blocking CD146 expression in CAFs significantly enhanced tumor cell migration and invasion in a co-culture system. CD146 knockdown also promoted CAF activation, possibly by inducing the production of pro-tumorigenic factors through modulation of NF-κB activity. Consistently, overexpression of CD146 in CAFs inhibited migration and invasion of co-cultured cancer cells. Finally, CD146 expression in CAFs was reduced by interaction with cancer cells. Our findings suggest that decreased CD146 expression in CAFs promotes pancreatic cancer progression.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research