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.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research