Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) promote tumor growth by differentiating into carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) and composing the tumor microenvironment. However, the mechanisms responsible for the transition of MSCs to CAFs are not well understood. Exosomes regulate cellular activities by mediating cell-cell communication. In this study, we aimed to investigate whether cancer cell-derived exosomes were involved in regulating the differentiation of human umbilical cord-derived MSCs (hucMSCs) to CAFs.
We first showed that gastric cancer cell-derived exosomes induced the expression of CAF markers in hucMSCs. We then demonstrated that gastric cancer cell-derived exosomes stimulated the phosphorylation of Smad-2 in hucMSCs. We further confirmed that TGF-β receptor 1 kinase inhibitor attenuated Smad-2 phosphorylation and CAF marker expression in hucMSCs after exposure to gastric cancer cell-derived exosomes.
Our results suggest that gastric cancer cells triggered the differentiation of hucMSCs to CAFs by exosomes-mediated TGF-β transfer and TGF-β/Smad pathway activation, which may represent a novel mechanism for MSCs to CAFs transition in cancer.
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Date Published: 20-December-2012
Author(s): Gu J., Qian H., Shen L., Zhang X., Zhu W., Huang L., Yan Y., Mao F., Zhao C., Shi Y., Xu W.