A juxtacrine/paracrine loop between C-Kit and stem cell factor promotes cancer stem cell survival in epithelial ovarian cancer

Elena Laura Mazzoldi, Simona Pavan, Giorgia Pilotto, Kevin Leone, Anna Pagotto, Simona Frezzini, Maria Ornella Nicoletto, Alberto Amadori, Anna Pastò

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Receptors tyrosine kinase (RTK) enable normal and tumor cells to perceive and adapt to stimuli present in the microenvironment. These stimuli, also known as growth factors, are important molecular cues actively supporting cancer stem cell (CSC) self-renewal and viability. Since in epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) the expression of c-Kit (CD117) has been identified as a CSC hallmark, we investigated the existence of a tumor growth-promoting loop between c-Kit and its ligand Stem Cell Factor (SCF). SCF exists as a soluble or transmembrane protein and through c-Kit interaction regulates cell viability, proliferation, and differentiation both in physiological and pathological conditions. High amounts of SCF were found in the ascitic effusions collected from EOC patients. While tumor cells and CSC only expressed the membrane-associated SCF isoform, both secreted and membrane-bound isoforms were expressed by tumor-associated macrophages (TAM, here shown to be M2-like) and fibroblasts (TAF). Circulating monocytes from EOC-bearing patients and healthy donors did not express both SCF isoforms. However, monocytes isolated from healthy donors produced SCF upon in vitro differentiation into macrophages, irrespectively of M1 or M2 polarization. In vitro, both SCF isoforms were able to activate the Akt pathway in c-Kit+ cells, and this effect was counteracted by the tyrosine kinase inhibitor imatinib. In addition, our results indicated that SCF could help c-Kit+ CSC survival in selective culture conditions and promote their canonical stemness properties, thus indicating the possible existence of a juxtacrine/paracrine circuit in EOC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number412
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalCell death & disease
Volume10
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 28 2019

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