COL11A1 activates cancer-associated fibroblasts by modulating TGF-β3 through the NF-κB/IGFBP2 axis in ovarian cancer cells

Yi Hui Wu, Yu Fang Huang, Tzu Hao Chang, Chien Chin Chen, Pei Ying Wu, Soon Cen Huang, Cheng Yang Chou

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42 Citations (Scopus)


Ovarian cancer has a unique tumor microenvironment (TME) that enables cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) to interact with cellular and matrix constituents and influence tumor development and migration into the peritoneal cavity. Collagen type XI alpha 1 (COL11A1) is overexpressed in CAFs; therefore this study examines its role during CAF activation in epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). Coculturing human ovarian fibroblasts (HOFs) with high COL11A1-expressing EOC cells or exposure to the conditioned medium of these cells prompted the expression of COL11A1 and CAF phenotypes. Conversely, coculturing HOFs with low COL11A1-expressing EOC cells or COL11A1-knockdown abrogated COL11A1 overexpression and secretion, in addition to CAF activation. Increased p-SP1 expression attributed to COL11A1-mediated extracellular signal-regulated kinase activation (ERK) induced p65 translocation into the nucleus and augmented its binding to the insulin-like growth factor binding protein 2 (IGFBP2) promoter, ultimately inducing TGF-β3 activation. The CAF–cancer cell crosstalk triggered interleukin-6 release, which in turn promoted EOC cell proliferation and invasiveness. These in vitro results were confirmed by in vivo findings in a mouse model, showing that COL11A1 overexpression in EOC cells promoted tumor formation and CAF activation, which was inhibited by TGF-β3 antibody. Human tumors with high TGF-β3 levels showed elevated expression of COL11A1 and IGFBP2, which was associated with poor survival. Our findings suggest the possibility that anti-TGF-β3 treatment strategy may be effective in targeting CAFs in COL11A1-positive ovarian tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4503-4519
Number of pages17
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jul 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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