Mast cells (MCs) can have either detrimental or beneficial effects on malignant processes but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Here we addressed this issue by examining the interaction between Lewis Lung Carcinoma (LLC) cells and MCs. In vivo, LLC tumors caused a profound accumulation of MCs, suggesting that LLC tumors have the capacity to attract MCs. Indeed, transwell migration assays showed that LLC-conditioned medium had chemotactic activity towards MCs, which was blocked by an antibody towards stem cell factor. In order to gain insight into the molecular mechanisms operative in tumor-MC interactions, the effect of LLC on the MC gene expression pattern was examined. As judged by gene array analysis, conditioned medium from LLC cells caused significant upregulation of numerous cell surface receptors and a pro-angiogenic Runx2/VEGF/Dusp5 axis in MCs, the latter in line with a role for MCs in promoting tumor angiogenesis. Among the genes showing the highest extent of upregulation was Tnfrsf9, encoding the anti-tumorigenic protein 4-1BB, suggesting that also anti-tumorigenic factors are induced. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis showed that 4-1BB was upregulated in a transient manner, and it was also shown that tumor cells induce 4-1BB in human MCs. Immunohistochemical analysis showed that LLC-conditioned medium induced 4-1BB also at the protein level. Together, this study provides novel insight into the molecular events associated with MC-tumor interactions and suggests that tumor cells induce both pro- and anti-tumorigenic responses in MCs.
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