Metastatic lung cancer is incurable and a leading cause of cancer death in the United States. However, the molecular mechanism by which lung cancer cells invade other tissues has remained unclear. We previously identified fibulin-5, an extracellular matrix protein, as a frequently silenced gene in lung cancer and a suppressor of cell invasion. In this study, we found fibulin-5 functions by inhibiting the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) datasets show a strong association between loss of fibulin-5 expression and poor outcomes of lung cancer patients, and also activation of the Wnt target genes MMP-7 and c-Myc. Fibulin-5 impedes Wnt/β-catenin signaling by inhibiting extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) to activate glycogen synthase kinase-3 β (GSK3β), which downregulates β-catenin and prevents its nuclear accumulation, leading to suppression of MMP-7 and c-Myc expression. These effects of fibulin-5 are mediated by its amino-terminal integrin-binding RGD motif. Fibulin-5 also blocks Wnt/β-catenin signaling in vivo in H460 metastasis and H1299 tumor models. Furthermore, knockdown of β-catenin suppresses metastasis of H460 tumors, while knockdown of GSK3β promotes metastasis of fibulin-5-expressing H1752 tumors. Together, our results suggest that fibulin-5 functions as a metastasis suppressor in lung cancer by modulating tumor microenvironment to suppress Wnt/β-catenin signaling.
Keywords: MMP-7; fibulin-5; invasion; lung cancer; β-catenin.