Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are key actors in modulating the progression of many solid tumors, such as breast cancer (BC). Herein, we identify an integrin α11/PDGFRβ–positive CAF subset displaying tumor-promoting features in BC. In the preclinical MMTV-PyMT mouse model, integrin α11 deficiency led to a drastic reduction of tumor progression and metastasis. A clear association between integrin α11 and PDGFRβ was found at both transcriptional and histological levels in BC specimens. High stromal integrin α11/PDGFRβ expression was associated with high grades and poorer clinical outcome in human BC patients. Functional assays using 5 CAF subpopulations (1 murine, 4 human) revealed that integrin α11 promotes CAF invasion and CAF-induced tumor cell invasion upon PDGF-BB stimulation. Mechanistically, the proinvasive activity of integrin α11 relies on its ability to interact with PDGFRβ in a ligand-dependent manner and to promote its downstream JNK activation, leading to the production of tenascin C, a proinvasive matricellular protein. Pharmacological inhibition of PDGFRβ and JNK impaired tumor cell invasion induced by integrin α11+ CAFs. Collectively, our study uncovers an integrin α11+ subset of protumoral CAFs that exploits the PDGFRβ/JNK signaling axis to promote tumor invasiveness in BC.
Irina Primac, Erik Maquoi, Silvia Blacher, Ritva Heljasvaara, Jan Van Deun, Hilde Y.H. Smeland, Annalisa Canale, Thomas Louis, Linda Stuhr, Nor Eddine Sounni, Didier Cataldo, Taina Pihlajaniemi, Christel Pequeux, Olivier De Wever, Donald Gullberg, Agnès Noel