Mucin 2 (MUC2) is the major secreted mucin of the large intestine and is expressed by adenomas and mucinous carcinomas. Since colon cancer is associated with a proinflammatory microenvironment and dysregulated MUC2 expression, the aim of this study was to characterize the effects of MUC2 gene expression in colon tumor progression using colonic cancer cells. CT26 colon cancer cells were stably transfected with MUC2 siRNA (MUC2 RNAi) or a control construct containing a nonspecific sequence (scrambled RNAi). Expression of MUC2 was significantly decreased in the MUC2 RNAi cell clones. Although MUC2 suppression did not affect the cell growth of colon cancer cells in vitro, MUC2 knockdown promoted tumor growth in an orthotopic colon cancer model in vivo. MUC2 silencing also increased interleukin (IL)-6 secretion by colon cancer cells. IL-6 neutralization attenuated tumor formation by MUC2 RNAi cells; it also increased CD8 T cell infiltration into the peritoneum. Taken together, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first study indicating that the immune response to cancer cells plays an important role in tumor growth regulated by MUC2. Furthermore, given the effects of MUC2 on IL-6 secretion, its targeting may represent a potentially useful strategy to treat colonic carcinomas.
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