Mesenchymal stem cells promote metastasis through activation of an ABL-MMP9 signaling axis in lung cancer cells

Lung Cancer

PLoS One. 2020 Oct 29;15(10):e0241423. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0241423. eCollection 2020.


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are recruited and activated by solid tumors and play a role in tumor progression and metastasis. Here we show that MSCs promote metastasis in a panel of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells. MSCs elicit transcriptional alterations in lung cancer cells leading to increased expression of factors implicated in the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and secreted proteins including matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP9). MSCs enhance secretion of enzymatically

active MMP9 in a panel of lung adenocarcinoma cells. High expression of MMP9 is linked to low survival rates in lung adenocarcinoma patients. Notably, we found that ABL tyrosine kinases are activated in MSC-primed lung cancer cells and functional ABL kinases are required for MSC-induced MMP9 expression, secretion and proteolytic activity. Importantly, ABL kinases are required for MSC-induced NSCLC metastasis. These data reveal an actionable target for inhibiting MSC-induced metastatic activity of lung adenocarcinoma cells through disruption of an ABL kinase-MMP9 signaling axis activated in MSC-primed lung cancer cells.