Background: Glycoprotein non-metastatic melanoma protein B (GPNMB)/Osteoactivin (OA) is a transmembrane protein expressed in approximately 40-75% of breast cancers. GPNMB/OA promotes the migration, invasion and metastasis of breast cancer cells; it is commonly expressed in basal/triple-negative breast tumors and is associated with shorter recurrence-free and overall survival times in patients with breast cancer. Thus, GPNMB/OA represents an attractive target for therapeutic intervention in breast cancer; however, little is known about the functions of GPNMB/OA within the primary tumor microenvironment.
Methodology/principal findings: We have employed mouse and human breast cancer cells to investigate the effects of GPNMB/OA on tumor growth and angiogenesis. GPNMB/OA-expressing tumors display elevated endothelial recruitment and reduced apoptosis when compared to vector control-derived tumors. Primary human breast cancers characterized by high vascular density also display elevated levels of GPNMB/OA when compared to those with low vascular density. Using immunoblot and ELISA assays, we demonstrate the GPNMB/OA ectodomain is shed from the surface of breast cancer cells. Transient siRNA-mediated knockdown studies of known sheddases identified ADAM10 as the protease responsible for GPNMB/OA processing. Finally, we demonstrate that the shed extracellular domain (ECD) of GPNMB/OA can promote endothelial migration in vitro.
Conclusions/significance: GPNMB/OA expression promotes tumor growth, which is associated with enhanced endothelial recruitment. We identify ADAM10 as a sheddase capable of releasing the GPNMB/OA ectodomain from the surface of breast cancer cells, which induces endothelial cell migration. Thus, ectodomain shedding may serve as a novel mechanism by which GPNMB/OA promotes angiogenesis in breast cancer.