Purpose: Vimentin is an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) biomarker and intermediate filament protein that functions during cell migration to maintain structure and motility. Despite the abundance of clinical data linking vimentin to poor patient outcome, it is unclear if vimentin is required for metastasis or is a correlative biomarker. We developed a novel genetically engineered mouse model (GEMM) to probe vimentin in lung adenocarcinoma metastasis.Experimental Design: We used the LSL-KrasG12D/Lkb1fl/fl/Vim-/- model (KLV-/-), which incorporates a whole-body knockout of vimentin and is derived from the Cre-dependent LSL-KrasG12D/Lkb1fl/fl model (KLV+/+). We compared the metastatic phenotypes of the GEMMs and analyzed primary tumors from the KLV models and lung adenocarcinoma patients to assess vimentin expression and function.Results: Characterization of KLV+/+ and KLV-/- mice shows that although vimentin is not required for primary lung tumor growth, vimentin is required for metastasis, and vimentin loss generates lower grade primary tumors. Interestingly, in the KLV+/+ mice, vimentin was not expressed in tumor cells but in cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) surrounding collective invasion packs (CIPs) of epithelial tumor cells, with significantly less CIPs in KLV-/- mice. CIPs correlate with tumor grade and are vimentin-negative and E-cadherin-positive, indicating a lack of cancer cell EMT. A similar heterotypic staining pattern was observed in human lung adenocarcinoma samples. In vitro studies show that vimentin is required for CAF motility to lead tumor cell invasion, supporting a vimentin-dependent model of collective invasion.Conclusions: These data show that vimentin is required for lung adenocarcinoma metastasis by maintaining heterotypic tumor cell-CAF interactions during collective invasion. Clin Cancer Res; 24(2); 420-32. ©2017 AACR.
©2017 American Association for Cancer Research.