Introduction: Studies in xenograft models and experimental models of metastasis have implicated several beta3 integrin-expressing cell populations, including endothelium, platelets and osteoclasts, in breast tumor progression. Since orthotopic human xenograft models of breast cancer are poorly metastatic to bone and experimental models bypass the formation of a primary tumor, however, the precise contribution of tumor-specific alphavbeta3 to the spontaneous metastasis of breast tumors from the mammary gland to bone remains unclear.
Methods: We used a syngeneic orthotopic model of spontaneous breast cancer metastasis to test whether exogenous expression of alphavbeta3 in a mammary carcinoma line (66cl4) that metastasizes to the lung, but not to bone, was sufficient to promote its spontaneous metastasis to bone from the mammary gland. The tumor burden in the spine and the lung following inoculation of alphavbeta3-expressing 66cl4 (66cl4beta3) tumor cells or control 66cl4pBabe into the mammary gland was analyzed by real-time quantitative PCR. The ability of these cells to grow and form osteolytic lesions in bone was determined by histology and tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase staining of bone sections following intratibial injection of tumor cells. The adhesive, migratory and invasive properties of 66cl4pBabe and 66cl4beta3 cells were evaluated in standard in vitro assays.
Results: The 66cl4beta3 tumors showed a 20-fold increase in metastatic burden in the spine compared with 66cl4pBabe. A similar trend in lung metastasis was observed. alphavbeta3 did not increase the proliferation of 66cl4 cells in vitro or in the mammary gland in vivo. Similarly, alphavbeta3 is not required for the proliferation of 66cl4 cells in bone as both 66cl4pBabe and 66cl4beta3 proliferated to the same extent when injected directly into the tibia. 66cl4beta3 tumor growth in the tibia, however, increased osteoclast recruitment and bone resorption compared with 66cl4 tumors. Moreover, alphavbeta3 increased 66cl4 tumor cell adhesion and alphavbeta3-dependent haptotactic migration towards bone matrix proteins, as well as their chemotactic response to bone-derived soluble factors in vitro.
Conclusion: These results demonstrate for the first time that tumor-specific alphavbeta3 contributes to spontaneous metastasis of breast tumors to bone and suggest a critical role for this receptor in mediating chemotactic and haptotactic migration towards bone factors.