Recent studies have shown that the tumor microenvironment plays a significant role in the progression of solid tumors. As an abundant component of the tumor microenvironment, cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) have been shown to promote tumorigenesis and cancer aggressiveness, but their molecular characteristics remain poorly understood. In the present study, paired CAFs and normal fibroblasts (NFs) were isolated from five colorectal cancer (CRC) tissues from patients who underwent surgical resection. The gene expression profiles of CAFs and NFs identified by RNA sequencing were compared to understand the complex role of CAFs in cancer progression. Gene Set Enrichment Analysis revealed that the gene sets related to the Wnt signaling pathway were highly enriched in CAFs, as well as TGFβ signaling, which is considered to be a regulator of CAFs. Among the components of this pathway, Wnt2 was specifically expressed. The observations led us to speculate that Wnt2 is extremely involved in regulating CRC progression by CAFs. Thus, we performed immunohistochemical analysis on Wnt2 in 171 patients who underwent surgery for colorectal adenocarcinoma. Positive staining for Wnt2 was mainly observed in cancer stroma, although the immunoreactivity was weak in cancer cells. Wnt2 expression in CAFs was significantly correlated with depth of tumor (P <.001), lymph node metastasis (P =.044), TNM stage (P =.010), venous invasion (P <.001), and recurrence (P =.013). Subsequent in vitro analyses were conducted using conditioned medium (CM) from immortalized CAFs transfected with siRNA targeting Wnt2. As a result, cancer cell invasion and migration were significantly decreased in the CM from immortalized CAFs transfected with siRNA targeting Wnt2. Our findings indicated that Wnt2 protein released from CAFs enhances CRC cell invasion and migration. In conclusion, Wnt2 secreted by CAFs plays a key role in cancer progression and is a potential therapeutic target for CRC.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Cancer Research