Crosstalk between bone marrow-derived myofibroblasts and gastric cancer cells regulates cancer stemness and promotes tumorigenesis

L. Zhu, X. Cheng, J. Shi, J. Lin, G. Chen, H. Jin, A. B. Liu, H. Pyo, J. Ye, Y. Zhu, H. Wang, H. Chen, J. Fang, L. Cai, T. C. Wang, C. S. Yang, S. P. Tu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Bone marrow-derived cells have important roles in cancer development and progression. Our previous studies demonstrated that murine bone marrow-derived myofibroblasts (BMFs) enhanced tumor growth. In this study, we investigated the mechanisms of BMF actions. We found that co-injection of BMFs with gastric cancer cells markedly promoted tumorigenesis. Co-cultured BMFs or BMF-conditioned medium (BMF-CM) induced the formation of spheres, which expressed stem cell signatures and exhibited features of self-renewal, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and tumor initiation. Furthermore, CD44 + fractions in spheres were able to initiate tumorigenesis and re-establish tumors in serially passaged xenografts. In co-culture systems, BMFs secreted high levels of murine interleukin-6 (IL-6) and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), whereas cancer cells produced high level of transformation growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1). BMF-CM and IL-6 activated BMFs to produce mHGF, which activated signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) and upregulated TGF-β1 in human cancer cells. In return, cancer cell-CM stimulated BMFs to produce IL-6, which was inhibited by anti-TGF-β1 neutralizing antibody. Blockade of HGF/Met, Janus kinase 2 (JAK2)/STAT3 and TGF-β1 signaling by specific inhibitors inhibited BMF-induced sphere formation. STAT3 knockdown in cancer cells also inhibited BMF-induced sphere formation and tumorigenesis. Moreover, TGF-β1 overexpression in cancer cells was co-related with IL-6 and HGF overexpression in stromal cells in human gastric cancer tissues. Our results show that BMF-derived IL-6/HGF and cancer cell-derived TGF-β1 mediate the interactions between BMFs and gastric cancer cells, which regulate cancer stemness and promote tumorigenesis. Targeting inhibition of the interactions between BMFs and cancer cells may be a new strategy for cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5388-5399
Number of pages12
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 13 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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