The pro-inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) and interleukin 1β (IL1β) are expressed simultaneously and have tumor-promoting roles in breast cancer. In parallel, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) undergo conversion at the tumor site to cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), which are generally connected to enhanced tumor progression. Here, we determined the impact of consistent inflammatory stimulation on stromal cell plasticity. MSCs that were persistently stimulated by TNFα + IL-1β (generally 14–18 days) gained a CAF-like morphology, accompanied by prominent changes in gene expression, including in stroma/fibroblast-related genes. These CAF-like cells expressed elevated levels of vimentin and fibroblast activation protein (FAP) and demonstrated significantly increased abilities to contract collagen gels. Moreover, they gained the phenotype of inflammatory CAFs, as indicated by the reduced expression of α smooth muscle actin (αSMA), increased proliferation, and elevated expression of inflammatory genes and proteins, primarily inflammatory chemokines. These inflammatory CAFs released factors that enhanced tumor cell dispersion, scattering, and migration; the inflammatory CAF-derived factors elevated cancer cell migration by stimulating the chemokine receptors CCR2, CCR5, and CXCR1/2 and Ras-activating receptors, expressed by the cancer cells. Together, these novel findings demonstrate that chronic inflammation can induce MSC-to-CAF conversion, leading to the generation of tumor-promoting inflammatory CAFs.
- Breast cancer
- Cancer-associated fibroblasts
- Interleukin 1β
- Mesenchymal stem cells
- Tumor necrosis factor α
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cancer Research