Background: Tumour angiogenesis is crucially dependent on the communication between the tumour and the associated endothelium. Protein kinase D (PKD) isoenzymes mediate vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) induced endothelial cell proliferation and migration and are also highly expressed in various tumours.
Aim: To examine the role of PKDs for tumour proliferation and angiogenesis selectively in pancreatic and gastric tumours and in tumour-associated endothelium in vitro and in vivo.
Methods: PKD2 expression in human tumours was determined by immunohistochemistry. The effect of PKD2 depletion in endothelial cells by siRNAs was examined in sprouting assays, the chorioallantois model (CAM) and tumour xenografts. In murine endothelium in vivo PKD2 was knocked-down by splice switching oligonucleotides. Human PKD2 was depleted in xenografts by siRNAs and PKD2-miRs. PKD2 activation by hypoxia and its role for hypoxia-induced NR4/TR3- and VEGF-A promoter activity, expression and secretion was investigated in cell lines.
Results: PKD2 is expressed in gastrointestinal tumours and in the tumour-associated endothelium. Tumour growth and angiogenesis in the CAM and in tumour xenografts require PKD expression in endothelial cells. Conversely, hypoxia activates PKD2 in pancreatic cancer cells and PKD2 was identified as the major mediator of hypoxia-stimulated VEGF-A promoter activity, expression and secretion in tumour cells. PKD2 depletion in pancreatic tumours inhibited tumour-driven blood vessel formation and tumour growth in the CAM and in orthotopic pancreatic cancer xenografts.
Conclusion: PKD2 regulates hypoxia-induced VEGF-A expression/secretion by tumour cells and VEGF-A stimulated blood vessel formation. PKD2 is a novel, essential mediator of tumour cell-endothelial cell communication and a promising therapeutic target to inhibit angiogenesis in gastrointestinal cancers.