The development of ascites correlates with advanced stage disease and poor prognosis in ovarian cancer. Vascular permeability is the key pathophysiological change involved in ascites development. Previously, we provided evidence that perivascular M2-like macrophages protect the vascular barrier through direct contact with endothelial cells (ECs). Here, we investigated the molecular mechanism and its clinical significance in the ovarian cancer setting. We found that upon direct coculture with the endothelium, M2 macrophages tuned down their VLA4 and reduced the levels of VCAM1 in ECs. On the other hand, ectopically overexpressing VLA4 in macrophages or VCAM1 in ECs induced hyperpermeability. Mechanistically, downregulation of VLA4 or VCAM1 led to reduced levels of RAC1 and ROS, which resulted in decreased phosphorylation of PYK2 (p-PYK2) and VE-cadherin (p–VE-cad), hence enhancing cell adhesion. Furthermore, targeting the VLA4/VCAM1 axis augmented vascular integrity and abrogated ascites formation in vivo. Finally, VLA4 expression on the macrophages isolated from ascites dictated permeability ex vivo. Importantly, VLA4 antibody acted synergistically with bevacizumab to further enhance the vascular barrier. Taking these data together, we reveal here that M2 macrophages regulate the vascular barrier though the VCAM1/RAC1/ROS/p-PYK2/p–VE-cad cascade, which provides specific therapeutic targets for the treatment of malignant ascites.
Shibo Zhang, Bingfan Xie, Lijie Wang, Hua Yang, Haopei Zhang, Yuming Chen, Feng Wang, Changqing Liu, Huanhuan He