The tumor microenvironment plays a significant role in colitis-associated cancer (CAC). Intestinal myofibroblasts (IMFs) are cells in the intestinal lamina propria secreting factors that are known to modulate carcinogenesis; however, the physiological role of IMFs and signaling pathways influencing CAC have remained unknown. Tumor progression locus 2 (Tpl2) is a MAPK that regulates inflammatory and oncogenic pathways. In this study we addressed the role of Tpl2 in CAC using complete and tissue-specific ablation of Tpl2 in mutant mice. Tpl2-deficient mice did not exhibit significant differences in inflammatory burdens following azoxymethane (AOM)/dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) administration compared with wild-type mice; however, the mutant mice developed significantly increased numbers and sizes of tumors, associated with enhanced epithelial proliferation and decreased apoptosis. Cell-specific ablation of Tpl2 in IMFs, but not in intestinal epithelial or myeloid cells, conferred a similar susceptibility to adenocarcinoma formation. Tpl2-deficient IMFs upregulated HGF production and became less sensitive to the negative regulation of HGF by TGF-β3. In vivo inhibition of HGF-mediated c-Met activation blocked early, enhanced colon dysplasia in Tpl2-deficient mice, indicating that Tpl2 normally suppresses the HGF/c-Met pathway. These findings establish a mesenchyme-specific role for Tpl2 in the regulation of HGF production and suppression of epithelial tumorigenesis.
Vasiliki Koliaraki, Manolis Roulis, George Kollias