Background: Stromelysin-3 (ST-3) is over-expressed in the majority of human carcinomas including breast carcinoma. Due to its known effect in promoting tumour formation, but its impeding effect on metastasis, a dual role of ST-3 in tumour progression, depending on the cellular grade of dedifferentiation, was hypothesized.
Methods: The present study was designed to investigate the influence of ST-3 in vivo and in vitro on the oestrogen-dependent, non-invasive MCF-7 breast carcinoma cell line as well as on the oestrogen-independent, invasive MDA-MB-231 breast carcinoma cell line. Therefore an orthotopic human xenograft tumour model in nude mice, as well as a 3D matrigel cell culture system, were employed.
Results: Using both in vitro and in vivo techniques, we have demonstrated that over-expression of ST-3 in MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells leads to both increased cell numbers and tumour volumes. This observation was dependent upon the presence of growth factors. In particular, the enhanced proliferative capacity was in MCF-7/ST-3 completely and in MDA-MB-231/ST-3 cells partially dependent on the IGF-1 signalling pathway. Microarray analysis of ST-3 over-expressing cells revealed that in addition to cell proliferation, further biological processes seemed to be affected, such as cell motility and stress response. The MAPK-pathway as well as the Wnt and PI3-kinase pathways, appear to also play a potential role. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that breast cancer cell lines of different differentiation status, as well as the non-tumourigenic cell line MCF-10A, have a comparable capability to induce endogenous ST-3 expression in fibroblasts.
Conclusion: These data reveal that ST-3 is capable of enhancing tumourigenesis in highly differentiated "early stage" breast cancer cell lines as well as in further progressed breast cancer cell lines that have already undergone epithelial-mesenchymal transition. We propose that ST-3 induction in tumour fibroblasts leads to the stimulation of the IGF-1R pathway in carcinoma cells, thus enhancing their proliferative capacity. In addition, further different cellular processes seem to be activated by ST-3, possibly accounting for the dual role of ST-3 in tumour progression and metastasis.