Tumor endothelin-1 enhances metastatic colonization of the lung in mouse xenograft models of bladder cancer

J Clin Invest. 2011 Jan;121(1):132-47. doi: 10.1172/JCI42912. Epub 2010 Dec 22.


Many patients with advanced bladder cancer develop lethal metastases to the lung. The vasoconstricting protein endothelin-1 (ET-1) has been implicated in this process, although the mechanism(s) by which it promotes metastasis remains unclear. Here, we have evaluated whether tumor ET-1 expression can serve as a biomarker for lung metastasis and whether it is required for metastatic disease. Evaluation of ET-1 mRNA and protein expression in four patient cohorts revealed that levels of ET-1 are higher in patients with muscle-invasive bladder cancers, which are associated with higher incidence of metastasis, and that high ET-1 levels are associated with decreased disease-specific survival. Consistent with its proinflammatory activity, we found that tumor-derived ET-1 acts through endothelin-1 receptor A (ETAR) to enhance migration and invasion of both tumor cells and macrophages and induces expression of inflammatory cytokines and proteases. Using human and mouse cancer cells depleted of ET-1 and pharmacologic blockade of ET receptors in lung metastasis models, we found that tumor ET-1 expression and ETAR activity are necessary for metastatic lung colonization and that this process is preceded by and dependent on macrophage infiltration of the lung. In contrast, tumor ET-1 expression and ETAR activity appeared less important in established primary or metastatic tumor growth. These findings strongly suggest that ETAR inhibitors might be more effective as adjuvant therapeutic agents than as initial treatment for advanced primary or metastatic disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Endothelin A Receptor Antagonists
  • Endothelin-1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Endothelin-1 / genetics*
  • Endothelin-1 / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / genetics
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / physiopathology
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • RNA, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Receptor, Endothelin A / metabolism
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms* / metabolism


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cytokines
  • Endothelin A Receptor Antagonists
  • Endothelin-1
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Receptor, Endothelin A