ETS1 induction by the microenvironment promotes ovarian cancer metastasis through focal adhesion kinase

Cancer Lett. 2018 Feb 1;414:190-204. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2017.11.012. Epub 2017 Nov 22.


Metastatic colonization involves paracrine/juxtacrine interactions with the microenvironment inducing an adaptive response through transcriptional regulation. However, the identities of transcription factors (TFs) induced by the metastatic microenvironment in ovarian cancer (OC) and their mechanism of action is poorly understood. Using an organotypic 3D culture model recapitulating the early events of metastasis, we identified ETS1 as the most upregulated member of the ETS family of TFs in metastasizing OC cells as they interacted with the microenvironment. ETS1 was regulated by p44/42 MAP kinase signaling activated in the OC cells interacting with mesothelial cells at the metastatic site. Human OC tumors had increased expression of ETS1, which predicted poor prognosis. ETS1 regulated OC metastasis both in vitro and in mouse xenografts. A combination of ChIP-seq and RNA-seq analysis and functional rescue experiments revealed FAK as the key transcriptional target and downstream effector of ETS1. Taken together, our results indicate that ETS1 is an essential transcription factor induced in OC cells by the microenvironment, which promotes metastatic colonization though the transcriptional upregulation of its target FAK.

Keywords: ETS1; FAK; Metastasis; Microenvironment; Omentum; Ovarian cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Female
  • Focal Adhesion Kinase 1 / genetics*
  • Focal Adhesion Kinase 1 / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Proto-Oncogene Protein c-ets-1 / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Protein c-ets-1 / metabolism
  • RNA Interference
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • Tumor Microenvironment / genetics*


  • ETS1 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Protein c-ets-1
  • Focal Adhesion Kinase 1
  • PTK2 protein, human