Angela Dittmer, Jürgen Dittmer,
CAFs (Carcinoma-associated fibroblasts) play an important role in cancer progression. For instance, they promote resistance to anti-estrogens, such as fulvestrant. Here, we show that, in ERα-positive breast cancer cell lines, the cocktail of factors secreted by CAFs (CAF-CM) induce the expression of the embryonal stem cell transcription factor Sox2 (sex determining region Y (SRY)-box 2). Long-term exposure to CAF-CM was able to give rise to very high Sox2 levels both in the absence and presence of fulvestrant. IL-6 (interleukin-6), a major component of CAF-CM, failed to raise Sox2 expression. In MCF-7 sublines established in the presence of CAF-CM, almost all cells showed Sox2 expression, whereas long-term treatment of T47D cells with CAF-CM resulted in a ~60-fold increase in the proportions of two distinct populations of Sox2 high and low expresser cells. Exposure of BT474 cells to CAF-CM raised the fraction of Sox2 high expresser cells by ~3-fold. Cell sorting based on CD44 and CD24 expression or ALDH (aldehyde dehydrogenase) activity revealed that most Sox2 high expresser cells were not CD44hi/CD24lo- or ALDH-positive cells suggesting that they were not CSCs (cancer stem cells), though CD44 played a role in Sox2 expression. Functionally, Sox2 was found to protect CAF-CM-treated cells against apoptosis and to allow higher growth activity in the presence of fulvestrant. Mechanistically, the key drivers of Sox2 expression was found to be STAT3 (Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3), Bcl-3 (B-cell lymphoma 3) and the PI3K (Phosphoinositide 3-kinase)/AKT pathway, whose activities/expression can all be upregulated by CAF-CM. These data suggest that CAF-CM induces Sox2 expression in non-CSCs by activating proteins involved in growth control and drug resistance, leading to higher protection against apoptosis.
Cancers (Basel) (Cancers)
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