bims-ecemfi Biomed News
on ECM and fibroblasts
Issue of 2024‒03‒24
23 papers selected by
Badri Narayanan Narasimhan, University of California, San Diego

  1. Adv Sci (Weinh). 2024 Mar 17. e2307129
      Recently mapped transcriptomic landscapes reveal the extent of heterogeneity in cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) beyond previously established single-gene markers. Functional analyses of individual CAF subsets within the tumor microenvironment are critical to develop more accurate CAF-targeting therapeutic strategies. However, there is a lack of robust preclinical models that reflect this heterogeneity in vitro. In this study, single-cell RNA sequencing datasets acquired from head and neck squamous cell carcinoma tissues to predict microenvironmental and cellular features governing individual CAF subsets are leveraged. Some of these features are then incorporated into a tunable hyaluronan-based hydrogel system to culture patient-derived CAFs. Control over hydrogel degradability and integrin adhesiveness enabled derivation of the predominant myofibroblastic and inflammatory CAF subsets, as shown through changes in cell morphology and transcriptomic profiles. Last, using these hydrogel-cultured CAFs, microtubule dynamics are identified, but not actomyosin contractility, as a key mediator of CAF plasticity. The recapitulation of CAF heterogeneity in vitro using defined hydrogels presents unique opportunities for advancing the understanding of CAF biology and evaluation of CAF-targeting therapeutics.
    Keywords:  CAF heterogeneity; cancer-associated fibroblasts; hydrogel; inflammatory CAF; myofibroblastic CAF
  2. ACS Nano. 2024 Mar 20.
      Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) assist in breast cancer (BRCA) invasion and immune resistance by overproduction of extracellular matrix (ECM). Herein, we develop FPC@S, a photodynamic immunomodulator that targets the ECM, to improve the photodynamic immunotherapy for fibrotic BRCA. FPC@S combines a tumor ECM-targeting peptide, a photosensitizer (protoporphyrin IX) and an antifibrotic drug (SIS3). After anchoring to the ECM, FPC@S causes ECM remodeling and BRCA cell death by generating reactive oxygen species (ROS) in situ. Interestingly, the ROS-mediated ECM remodeling can normalize the tumor blood vessel to improve hypoxia and in turn facilitate more ROS production. Besides, upon the acidic tumor microenvironment, FPC@S will release SIS3 for reprograming CAFs to reduce their activity but not kill them, thus inhibiting fibrosis while preventing BRCA metastasis. The natural physical barrier formed by the dense ECM is consequently eliminated in fibrotic BRCA, allowing the drugs and immune cells to penetrate deep into tumors and have better efficacy. Furthermore, FPC@S can stimulate the immune system and effectively suppress primary, distant and metastatic tumors by combining with immune checkpoint blockade therapy. This study provides different insights for the development of fibrotic tumor targeted delivery systems and exploration of synergistic immunotherapeutic mechanisms against aggressive BRCA.
    Keywords:  cancer-associated fibroblasts; fibrotic breast cancer; immune checkpoint blockade; photodynamic therapy; tumor extracellular matrix
  3. Theranostics. 2024 ;14(5): 1873-1885
      Rationale: The tumor microenvironment (TME) and its multifaceted interactions with cancer cells are major targets for cancer treatment. Single-cell technologies have brought major insights into the TME, but the resulting complexity often precludes conclusions on function. Methods: We combined single-cell RNA sequencing and spatial transcriptomic data to explore the relationship between different cancer-associated fibroblast (CAF) populations and immune cell exclusion in breast tumors. The significance of the findings was then evaluated in a cohort of tumors (N=75) from breast cancer patients using immunohistochemistry analysis. Results: Our data show for the first time the degree of spatial organization of different CAF populations in breast cancer. We found that IL-iCAFs, Detox-iCAFs, and IFNγ-iCAFs tended to cluster together, while Wound-myCAFs, TGFβ-myCAFs, and ECM-myCAFs formed another group that overlapped with elevated TGF-β signaling. Differential gene expression analysis of areas with CD8+ T-cell infiltration/exclusion within the TGF-β signaling-rich zones identified elastin microfibrillar interface protein 1 (EMILIN1) as a top modulated gene. EMILIN1, a TGF-β inhibitor, was upregulated in IFNγ-iCAFs directly modulating TGFβ immunosuppressive function. Histological analysis of 75 breast cancer samples confirmed that high EMILIN1 expression in the tumor margins was related to high CD8+ T-cell infiltration, consistent with our spatial gene expression analysis. High EMILIN1 expression was also associated with better prognosis of patients with breast cancer, underscoring its functional significance for the recruitment of cytotoxic T cells into the tumor area. Conclusion: Our data show that correlating TGF-β signaling to a CAF subpopulation is not enough because proteins with TGF-β-modulating activity originating from other CAF subpopulations can alter its activity. Therefore, therapeutic targeting should remain focused on biological processes rather than on specific CAF subtypes.
    Keywords:  CAF subpopulations; cancer invasion; patient outcome; spatial transcriptomics; tumor immunity
  4. Biochem Pharmacol. 2024 Mar 16. pii: S0006-2952(24)00122-9. [Epub ahead of print]223 116139
      Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), one of the most abundant stromal cells in the tumor microenvironment, mediate desmoplastic responses. CAFs are major drivers for the failure of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) chemotherapy. It is well-documented that many traditional Chinese medicines (TCMs) exhibit potent anti-fibrotic effects based on their capacity to suppress the production of ECM proteins. Therefore, the combination of TCMs exhausting CAFs with chemotherapy is a potential regimen for treating TNBC. Here, TGF-β was used to induce the transformation of NIH/3T3 cells into CAFs for screening TCMs to inhibit tumor fibrosis. After screening 11 candidate TCMs for inhibiting CAFs using the TMS method, rhein (Rhe) was found to strongly inhibit the proliferation of CAFs. Therefore, Rhe was chosen as a representative TCM to inhibit CAFs in TNBC. A 4T1Fluc/CAFs tumor sphere resembling the TME in vivo was constructed to explore the feasibility of inhibiting CAFs to sensitize DOX in treating TNBC. It was found that CAFs apparently hindered the penetration of DOX into 4T1Fluc/CAFs tumor spheres and decreased the the sensitivity of 4T1Fluc cells to DOX, while Rhe significantly restored the sensitivity of 4T1Fluc cells to DOX by inhibiting the proliferation of CAFs. Consistent with in vitro results, Rhe reversed the abnormal activation of CAFs and diminished the accumulation of collagen in 4T1Fluc mouse xenograft models. This removal of stromal barrier facilitated the antitumor efficacy of DOX. Altogether, this study demonstrated for the first time that Rhe could inhibit tumor tissue fibrosis and synergize DOX to treat TNBC.
    Keywords:  Cancer-associated fibroblasts; Desmoplastic triple-negative breast cancer; Doxorubicin; Rhein
  5. Nat Commun. 2024 Mar 20. 15(1): 2498
      T cell-based immunotherapies have exhibited promising outcomes in tumor control; however, their efficacy is limited in immune-excluded tumors. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) play a pivotal role in shaping the tumor microenvironment and modulating immune infiltration. Despite the identification of distinct CAF subtypes using single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq), their functional impact on hindering T-cell infiltration remains unclear, particularly in soft-tissue sarcomas (STS) characterized by low response rates to T cell-based therapies. In this study, we characterize the STS microenvironment using murine models (in female mice) with distinct immune composition by scRNA-seq, and identify a subset of CAFs we termed glycolytic cancer-associated fibroblasts (glyCAF). GlyCAF rely on GLUT1-dependent expression of CXCL16 to impede cytotoxic T-cell infiltration into the tumor parenchyma. Targeting glycolysis decreases T-cell restrictive glyCAF accumulation at the tumor margin, thereby enhancing T-cell infiltration and augmenting the efficacy of chemotherapy. These findings highlight avenues for combinatorial therapeutic interventions in sarcomas and possibly other solid tumors. Further investigations and clinical trials are needed to validate these potential strategies and translate them into clinical practice.
  6. J Cancer. 2024 ;15(8): 2292-2305
      The three-dimensional (3D) cell culture technique has been applied comprehensively as a variable platform for medical research, biochemical signal pathway analysis, and evaluation of anti-tumor treatment response due to an excellent recapitulation of a tumor microenvironment (TME) in the in vitro cultured cancer cells. Pancreatic cancer (PaC) is one of the toughest malignancies with a complex TME and refractory treatment response. To comprehensively study the TME of PaC, there is an eager need to develop a 3D culture model to decompose the cellular components and their cross interactions. Herein, we establish a 3D PaC culture system with cancer stem cell (CSC) and scalability properties. To validate our model, we tested the individual PaC cell and the combined effects with cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) on cancer tumorigenicity, the cellular interaction through the CXCR3/CXCL10 axis, and cellular responses reflection of anti-cancer treatments. With the help of our 3D technology, a simulated malignant spheroid with important stromal populations and TME physiochemical properties may be successfully recreated. It can be used in a wide range of preclinical research and helpful in advancing basic and translational cancer biology.
    Keywords:  CXCR3/CXCL10 axis; Pancreatic cancer (PaC); cancer-associated fibroblast (CAF); spheroid model; therapeutic discovery.; three dimensional (3D); two dimensional (2D)
  7. Biophys Rev (Melville). 2022 Dec;3(4): 041304
      Actin, a primary component of the cell cytoskeleton can have multiple isoforms, each of which can have specific properties uniquely suited for their purpose. These monomers are then bound together to form polymeric filaments utilizing adenosine triphosphate hydrolysis as a source of energy. Proteins, such as Arp2/3, VASP, formin, profilin, and cofilin, serve important roles in the polymerization process. These filaments can further be linked to form stress fibers by proteins called actin-binding proteins, such as α-actinin, myosin, fascin, filamin, zyxin, and epsin. These stress fibers are responsible for mechanotransduction, maintaining cell shape, cell motility, and intracellular cargo transport. Cancer metastasis, specifically epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT), which is one of the key steps of the process, is accompanied by the formation of thick stress fibers through the Rho-associated protein kinase, MAPK/ERK, and Wnt pathways. Recently, with the advent of "field cancerization," pre-malignant cells have also been demonstrated to possess stress fibers and related cytoskeletal features. Analytical methods ranging from western blot and RNA-sequencing to cryo-EM and fluorescent imaging have been employed to understand the structure and dynamics of actin and related proteins including polymerization/depolymerization. More recent methods involve quantifying properties of the actin cytoskeleton from fluorescent images and utilizing them to study biological processes, such as EMT. These image analysis approaches exploit the fact that filaments have a unique structure (curvilinear) compared to the noise or other artifacts to separate them. Line segments are extracted from these filament images that have assigned lengths and orientations. Coupling such methods with statistical analysis has resulted in development of a new reporter for EMT in lung cancer cells as well as their drug responses.
  8. J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2024 Mar 16. 43(1): 84
      BACKGROUND: How platelets interact with and influence the tumor microenvironment (TME) remains poorly characterized.METHODS: We compared the presence and participation of platelets in the TME of two tumors characterized by highly different TME, PyMT AT-3 mammary tumors and B16F1 melanoma.
    RESULTS: We show that whereas firmly adherent platelets continuously line tumor vessels of both AT-3 and B16F1 tumors, abundant extravascular stromal clusters of platelets from thrombopoietin-independent origin were present only in AT-3 mammary tumors. We further show that platelets influence the angiogenic and inflammatory profiles of AT-3 and B16F1 tumors, though with very different outcomes according to tumor type. Whereas thrombocytopenia increased bleeding in both tumor types, it further caused severe endothelial degeneration associated with massive vascular leakage, tumor swelling, and increased infiltration of cytotoxic cells, only in AT-3 tumors.
    CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that while platelets are integral components of solid tumors, their localization and origin in the TME, as well as their impact on its shaping, are tumor type-dependent.
    Keywords:  Platelets; Solid tumors; Thrombocytopenia; Tumor microenvironment; Vascular integrity
  9. Cell Biochem Funct. 2024 Mar;42(2): e3984
      Cancer has become a global public health problem and its harmful effects have received widespread attention. Conventional treatments such as surgical resection, radiotherapy and other techniques are applicable to clinical practice, but new drugs are constantly being developed and other therapeutic approaches, such as immunotherapy are being applied. In addition to studying the effects on individual tumor cells, it is important to explore the role of tumor microenvironment on tumor cell development since tumor cells do not exist alone but in the tumor microenvironment. In the tumor microenvironment, tumor cells are interconnected with other stromal cells and influence each other, among which tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) are the most numerous immune cells. At the same time, it was found that cancer cells have different levels of autophagy from normal cells. In cancer therapy, the occurrence of autophagy plays an important role in promoting tumor cell death or inhibiting tumor cell death, and is closely related to the environment. Therefore, elucidating the regulatory role of autophagy between TAMs and tumor cells may be an important breakthrough, providing new perspectives for further research on antitumor immune mechanisms and improving the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy.
    Keywords:  TAMs; Tumor microenvironment; autophagy; cancer; immunotherapy
  10. bioRxiv. 2024 Mar 07. pii: 2024.03.04.583349. [Epub ahead of print]
      Obesity is a predisposition factor for breast cancer, suggesting a localized, reciprocal interaction between breast cancer cells and the surrounding mammary white adipose tissue. To investigate how breast cancer cells alter the composition and function of adipose tissue, we screened the secretomes of ten human breast cancer cell lines for the ability to modulate the differentiation of adipocyte stem and progenitor cells (ASPC). The screen identified a key adipogenic modulator, Zinc Alpha-2-Glycoprotein (ZAG/AZGP1), secreted by triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells. TNBC-secreted ZAG inhibits adipogenesis and instead induces the expression of fibrotic genes. Accordingly, depletion of ZAG in TNBC cells attenuates fibrosis in white adipose tissue and inhibits tumor growth. Further, high expression of ZAG in TNBC patients, but not other clinical subtypes of breast cancer, is linked to poor prognosis. Our findings suggest a role of TNBC-secreted ZAG in promoting the transdifferentiation of ASPCs into cancer-associated fibroblasts to support tumorigenesis.
  11. Front Cell Dev Biol. 2024 ;12 1354132
      The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a highly complex structure through which biochemical and mechanical signals are transmitted. In processes of cell migration, the ECM also acts as a scaffold, providing structural support to cells as well as points of potential attachment. Although the ECM is a well-studied structure, its role in many biological processes remains difficult to investigate comprehensively due to its complexity and structural variation within an organism. In tandem with experiments, mathematical models are helpful in refining and testing hypotheses, generating predictions, and exploring conditions outside the scope of experiments. Such models can be combined and calibrated with in vivo and in vitro data to identify critical cell-ECM interactions that drive developmental and homeostatic processes, or the progression of diseases. In this review, we focus on mathematical and computational models of the ECM in processes such as cell migration including cancer metastasis, and in tissue structure and morphogenesis. By highlighting the predictive power of these models, we aim to help bridge the gap between experimental and computational approaches to studying the ECM and to provide guidance on selecting an appropriate model framework to complement corresponding experimental studies.
    Keywords:  ECM structure; cancer; extracellular matrix; mathematical modeling; tissue morphogenesis; wound healing
  12. Dis Model Mech. 2024 Mar 01. pii: dmm050542. [Epub ahead of print]17(3):
      Breast cancer stands as the most prevalent malignancy afflicting women. Despite significant advancements in its diagnosis and treatment, breast cancer metastasis continues to be a leading cause of mortality among women. To metastasize, cancer cells face numerous challenges: breaking away from the primary tumor, surviving in the circulation, establishing in a distant location, evading immune detection and, finally, thriving to initiate a new tumor. Each of these sequential steps requires cancer cells to adapt to a myriad of stressors and develop survival mechanisms. In addition, most patients with breast cancer undergo surgical removal of their primary tumor and have various therapeutic interventions designed to eradicate cancer cells. Despite this plethora of attacks and stresses, certain cancer cells not only manage to persist but also proliferate robustly, giving rise to substantial tumors that frequently culminate in the patient's demise. To enhance patient outcomes, there is an imperative need for a deeper understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms that empower cancer cells to not only survive but also expand. Herein, we delve into the intrinsic stresses that cancer cells encounter throughout the metastatic journey and the additional stresses induced by therapeutic interventions. We focus on elucidating the remarkable strategies adopted by cancer cells, such as cell-cell clustering and intricate cell-cell communication mechanisms, to ensure their survival.
    Keywords:  Breast cancer; Cluster; Metastasis; Stress
  13. Int Dent J. 2024 Mar 16. pii: S0020-6539(24)00065-0. [Epub ahead of print]
      The decellularised extracellular matrix (dECM) of in vitro cell culture is a naturally derived biomaterial formed by the removal of cellular components. The compositions of molecules in the extracellular matrix (ECM) differ depending on various factors, including the culture conditions. Cell-derived ECM provides a 3-dimensional structure that has a complex influence on cell signalling, which in turn affects cell survival and differentiation. This review describes the effects of dECM derived from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) on cell responses, including cell migration, cell proliferation, and cell differentiation in vitro. Published articles were searched in the PubMed databases in 2005 to 2022, with assigned keywords (MSCs and decellularisation and cell culture). The 41 articles were reviewed, with the following criteria. (1) ECM was produced exclusively from MSCs; (2) decellularisation processes were performed; and (3) the dECM production was discussed in terms of culture systems and specific supplementations that are suitable for creating the dECM biomaterials. The dECM derived from MSCs supports cell adhesion, enhances cell proliferation, and promotes cell differentiation. Importantly, dECM derived from dental MSCs shows promise in regenerative dentistry applications. Therefore, the literature strongly supports cell-based dECMs as a promising option for innovative tissue engineering approaches for regenerative medicine.
    Keywords:  Cell differentiation; Cell proliferation; Decellularisation; Extracellular matrix; Mesenchymal stem cell; Regenerative dentistry
  14. Biophys Physicobiol. 2023 ;20(2): e200018
      Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have the potential for self-renewal and multipotency to differentiate into various lineages. Thus, they are of great interest in regenerative medicine as a cell source for tissue engineering. Substrate stiffness is one of the most extensively studied exogenous physical factors; however, consistent results have not always been reported for controlling MSCs. Conventionally used stiff culture substrates, such as tissue-culture polystyrene and glass, enhance nuclear localization of a mechanotransducer YAP and a pre-osteogenic transcription factor RUNX2, and bias MSCs towards the osteogenic lineage, even without osteogenic-inducing soluble factors. The mechanosensitive nature and intrinsic heterogeneity present challenges for obtaining reproducible results. This review summarizes the heterogeneity in human MSC response, specifically, nuclear/cytoplasmic localization changes in the mechanotransducer yes-associated protein (YAP) and the osteogenic transcription factor RUNX2, in response to substrate stiffness. In addition, a perspective on the intracellular factors attributed to response heterogeneity is discussed. The optimal range of stiffness parameters, Young's modulus, for MSC expansion culture to suppress osteogenic differentiation bias through the suppression of YAP and RUNX2 nuclear localization, and cell cycle progression is likely to be surprisingly narrow for a cell population from an identical donor and vary among cell populations from different donors. We believe that characterization of the heterogeneity of MSCs and understanding their biological meaning is an exciting research direction to establish guidelines for the design of culture substrates for the sophisticated control of MSC properties.
    Keywords:  mechanotransducer; osteogenic differentiation; regenerative medicine
  15. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2024 Mar 16. pii: S0165-6147(24)00045-2. [Epub ahead of print]
      Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) constitute an important part of the tumor microenvironment (TME) that regulates tumor progression. Tumor-derived signals, hypoxia, and competition for nutrients influence TAMs to reprogram their cellular metabolism. This altered metabolic profile creates a symbiotic communication between tumor and other immune cells to support tumor growth. In addition, the metabolic profile of TAMs regulates the expression of immune checkpoint molecules. The dynamic plasticity also allows TAMs to reshape their metabolism in response to modern therapeutic strategies. Therefore, over the years, a significant number of approaches have been implicated to reprogram cancer-promoting metabolism in TAMs. In this review, we discuss the current strategies and pitfalls, along with upcoming promising opportunities in leveraging TAM metabolism for developing better therapeutic approaches against cancer.
    Keywords:  macrophages; metabolism; tumor
  16. J Cell Mol Med. 2024 Apr;28(7): e18183
      Mechanical stress is an internal force between various parts of an object that resists external factors and effects that cause an object to deform, and mechanical stress is essential for various tissues that are constantly subjected to mechanical loads to function normally. Integrins are a class of transmembrane heterodimeric glycoprotein receptors that are important target proteins for the action of mechanical stress stimuli on cells and can convert extracellular physical and mechanical signals into intracellular bioelectrical signals, thereby regulating osteogenesis and osteolysis. Integrins play a bidirectional regulatory role in bone metabolism. In this paper, relevant literature published in recent years is reviewed and summarized. The characteristics of integrins and mechanical stress are introduced, as well as the mechanisms underlying responses of integrin to mechanical stress stimulation. The paper focuses on integrin-mediated mechanical stress in different cells involved in bone metabolism and its associated signalling mechanisms. The purpose of this review is to provide a theoretical basis for the application of integrin-mediated mechanical stress to the field of bone tissue repair and regeneration.
    Keywords:  bone metabolism; cell signalling pathway; integrin; mechanical stress; tissue engineering
  17. bioRxiv. 2024 Mar 08. pii: 2024.03.06.583112. [Epub ahead of print]
      Colorectal cancer has been linked to chronic colitis and red meat consumption, which can increase colonic iron and heme. Heme oxygenase-1 ( Hmox1 ) metabolizes heme and releases ferrous iron, but its role in colonic tumorigenesis is not well-described. Recent studies suggest that ferroptosis, the iron-dependent form of cell death, protects against colonic tumorigenesis. Ferroptosis culminates in excessive lipid peroxidation that is constrained by the antioxidative glutathione pathway. We observed increased mucosal markers of ferroptosis and glutathione metabolism in the setting of murine and human colitis, as well as murine colonic neoplasia. We obtained similar results in murine and human colonic epithelial organoids exposed to heme and the ferroptosis activator erastin, especially induction of Hmox1 . RNA sequencing of colonic organoids from mice with deletion of intestinal epithelial Hmox1 (Hmox1 ΔIEC ) revealed increased ferroptosis and activated glutathione metabolism after heme exposure. In a colitis-associated cancer model we observed significantly fewer and smaller tumors in Hmox1 ΔIEC mice compared to littermate controls. Transcriptional profiling of Hmox1 ΔIEC tumors and tumor organoids revealed increased ferroptosis and oxidative stress markers in tumor epithelial cells. In total, our findings reveal ferroptosis as an important colitis-associated cancer signature pathway, and Hmox1 as a key regulator in the tumor microenvironment.
  18. Biochimie. 2024 Mar 15. pii: S0300-9084(24)00066-X. [Epub ahead of print]222 132-150
      The incidence of breast cancer is perpetually growing globally, and it remains a major public health problem and the leading cause of mortality in women. Though the aberrant activities of the Hippo pathway have been reported to be associated with cancer, constructive knowledge of the pathway connecting the various elements of breast cancer remains to be elucidated. The Hippo transducers, yes-associated protein (YAP) and transcriptional co-activator with PDZ binding motif (TAZ), are reported to be either tumor suppressors, oncogenes, or independent prognostic markers in breast cancer. Thus, there is further need for an explicative evaluation of the dilemma with this molecular contribution of Hippo transducers in modulating breast malignancy. In this review, we summarize the intricate crosstalk of the Hippo pathway in different aspects of breast malignancy, including stem-likeness, cellular signaling, metabolic adaptations, tumor microenvironment, and immune responses. The collective data shows that Hippo transducers play an indispensable role in mammary tumor formation, progression, and dissemination. However, the cellular functions of YAP/TAZ in tumorigenesis might be largely dependent on the mechanical and biophysical cues they interact with, as well as on the cell phenotype. This review provides a glimpse into the plausible biological contributions of the cascade to the inward progression of breast carcinoma and suggests potential therapeutic prospects.
    Keywords:  Breast cancer; Hippo signaling; Immune response; Metabolism; Signal transduction; Stemness
  19. Biophys Rev (Melville). 2023 Dec;4(4): 041305
      Cell migration is a highly coordinated cellular event that determines diverse physiological and pathological processes in which the continuous interaction of a migrating cell with neighboring cells or the extracellular matrix is regulated by the physical setting of the extracellular microenvironment. In confined spaces, cell migration occurs differently compared to unconfined open spaces owing to the additional forces that limit cell motility, which create a driving bias for cells to invade the confined space, resulting in a distinct cell motility process compared to what is expected in open spaces. Moreover, cells in confined environments can be subjected to elevated mechanical compression, which causes physical stimuli and activates the damage repair cycle in the cell, including the DNA in the nucleus. Although cells have a self-restoring system to repair damage from the cell membrane to the genetic components of the nucleus, this process may result in genetic and/or epigenetic alterations that can increase the risk of the progression of diverse diseases, such as cancer and immune disorders. Furthermore, there has been a shift in the paradigm of bioengineering from the development of new biomaterials to controlling biophysical cues and fine-tuning cell behaviors to cure damaged/diseased tissues. The external physical cues perceived by cells are transduced along the mechanosensitive machinery, which is further channeled into the nucleus through subcellular molecular linkages of the nucleoskeleton and cytoskeleton or the biochemical translocation of transcription factors. Thus, external cues can directly or indirectly regulate genetic transcriptional processes and nuclear mechanics, ultimately determining cell fate. In this review, we discuss the importance of the biophysical cues, response mechanisms, and mechanical models of cell migration in confined environments. We also discuss the effect of force-dependent deformation of subcellular components, specifically focusing on subnuclear organelles, such as nuclear membranes and chromosomal organization. This review will provide a biophysical perspective on cancer progression and metastasis as well as abnormal cellular proliferation.
  20. J Transl Med. 2024 Mar 15. 22(1): 280
      BACKGROUND: Ovarian cancer (OC) is distinguished by its aggressive nature and the limited efficacy of current treatment strategies. Recent studies have emphasized the significant role of cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) in OC development and progression.METHODS: Employing sophisticated machine learning techniques on bulk transcriptomic datasets, we identified fibroblast growth factor 7 (FGF7), derived from CAFs, as a potential oncogenic factor. We investigated the relationship between FGF7 expression and various clinical parameters. A series of in vitro experiments were undertaken to evaluate the effect of CAFs-derived FGF7 on OC cell activities, such as proliferation, migration, and invasion. Single-cell transcriptomic analysis was also conducted to elucidate the interaction between FGF7 and its receptor. Detailed mechanistic investigations sought to clarify the pathways through which FGF7 fosters OC progression.
    RESULTS: Our findings indicate that higher FGF7 levels correlate with advanced tumor stages, increased vascular invasion, and poorer prognosis. CAFs-derived FGF7 significantly enhanced OC cell proliferation, migration, and invasion. Single-cell analysis and in vitro studies revealed that CAFs-derived FGF7 inhibits the ubiquitination and degradation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF-1α) via FGFR2 interaction. Activation of the FGF7/HIF-1α pathway resulted in the upregulation of mesenchymal markers and downregulation of epithelial markers. Importantly, in vivo treatment with neutralizing antibodies targeting CAFs-derived FGF7 substantially reduced tumor growth.
    CONCLUSION: Neutralizing FGF7 in the medium or inhibiting HIF-1α signaling reversed the effects of FGF7-mediated EMT, emphasizing the dependence of FGF7-mediated EMT on HIF-1α activation. These findings suggest that targeting the FGF7/HIF-1α/EMT axis may offer new therapeutic opportunities to intervene in OC progression.
    Keywords:  CAFs; Epithelial-mesenchymal transition; FGF7; FGFR2; Ovarian cancer
  21. BMC Med Genomics. 2024 Mar 21. 17(1): 77
      BACKGROUND: Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) play a crucial role in the tumor microenvironment of lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD) and are often associated with poorer clinical outcomes. This study aimed to screen for CAF-specific genes that could serve as promising therapeutic targets for LUAD.METHODS: We established a single-cell transcriptional profile of LUAD, focusing on genetic changes in fibroblasts. Next, we identified key genes associated with fibroblasts through weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) and univariate Cox analysis. Then, we evaluated the relationship between glutathione peroxidase 8 (GPX8) and clinical features in multiple independent LUAD cohorts. Furthermore, we analyzed immune infiltration to shed light on the relationship between GPX8 immune microenvironment remodeling. For clinical treatment, we used the tumor immune dysfunction and exclusion (TIDE) algorithm to assess the immunotherapy prediction efficiency of GPX8. After that, we screened potential therapeutic drugs for LUAD by the connectivity map (cMAP). Finally, we conducted a cell trajectory analysis of GPX8+ CAFs to show their unique function.
    RESULTS: Fibroblasts were found to be enriched in tumor tissues. Then we identified GPX8 as a key gene associated with CAFs through comprehensive bioinformatics analysis. Further analysis across multiple LUAD cohorts demonstrated the relationship between GPX8 and poor prognosis. Additionally, we found that GPX8 played a role in inducing the formation of an immunosuppressive microenvironment. The TIDE method indicated that patients with low GPX8 expression were more likely to be responsive to immunotherapy. Using the cMAP, we identified beta-CCP as a potential drug-related to GPX8. Finally, cell trajectory analysis provided insights into the dynamic process of GPX8+ CAFs formation.
    CONCLUSIONS: This study elucidates the association between GPX8+ CAFs and poor prognosis, as well as the induction of immunosuppressive formation in LUAD. These findings suggest that targeting GPX8+ CAFs could potentially serve as a therapeutic strategy for the treatment of LUAD.
    Keywords:  Cancer-associated fibroblasts; GPX8; Immunosuppressive microenvironment; Lung adenocarcinoma; Prognosis
  22. Biophys Rev (Melville). 2023 Jun;4(2): 021301
      All cells possess an innate ability to respond to a range of mechanical stimuli through their complex internal machinery. This comprises various mechanosensory elements that detect these mechanical cues and diverse cytoskeletal structures that transmit the force to different parts of the cell, where they are transcribed into complex transcriptomic and signaling events that determine their response and fate. In contrast to static (or steady) mechanostimuli primarily involving constant-force loading such as compression, tension, and shear (or forces applied at very low oscillatory frequencies (≤1 Hz) that essentially render their effects quasi-static), dynamic mechanostimuli comprising more complex vibrational forms (e.g., time-dependent, i.e., periodic, forcing) at higher frequencies are less well understood in comparison. We review the mechanotransductive processes associated with such acoustic forcing, typically at ultrasonic frequencies (>20 kHz), and discuss the various applications that arise from the cellular responses that are generated, particularly for regenerative therapeutics, such as exosome biogenesis, stem cell differentiation, and endothelial barrier modulation. Finally, we offer perspectives on the possible existence of a universal mechanism that is common across all forms of acoustically driven mechanostimuli that underscores the central role of the cell membrane as the key effector, and calcium as the dominant second messenger, in the mechanotransduction process.
  23. Adv Healthc Mater. 2024 Mar 20. e2304331
      Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most aggressive brain cancer, characterized by a rapid and drug-resistant progression. GBM "builds" around its primary core a genetically heterogeneous tumor-microenvironment (TME), recruiting surrounding healthy brain cells by releasing various intercellular signals. Glioma-associated microglia (GAM) represent the largest population of collaborating cells, which, in the TME, usually exhibit the anti-inflammatory M2 phenotype, thus promoting an immunosuppressing environment that helps tumor growth. Conversely, "classically activated" M1 microglia could provide pro-inflammatory and anti-tumorigenic activity, expected to exert a beneficial effect in defeating glioblastoma. In this work, we proposed an immunotherapy approach based on pro-inflammatory modulation of the GAM phenotype, through a controlled and localized electrical stimulation. The developed strategy relies on the wireless ultrasonic excitation of polymeric piezoelectric nanoparticles coated with GBM cell membrane extracts, to exploit homotypic targeting in anti-glioma applications. Such camouflaged nanotransducers locally generate electrical cues on GAM membranes, activating their M1 phenotype and ultimately triggering a promising anti-cancer activity. Collected findings open new perspectives in the modulation of immune cell activities through "smart" nanomaterials and, more specifically, provide an innovative auspicious tool in glioma immunotherapy. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Keywords:  Glioblastoma immunotherapy; Homotypic camouflage; Microglia activation; Piezoelectric nanoparticles