Identifying tumor promoting genomic alterations in tumor-associated fibroblasts via retrovirus-insertional mutagenesis

Oncotarget. 2017 Oct 16;8(57):97231-97245. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.21881. eCollection 2017 Nov 14.


Tumor-associated fibroblasts (TAFs) are often essential for solid tumor growth. However, few genetic or epigenetic alterations have been found in TAFs during the progression of solid tumors. Employing a tumor-stromal cell co-injection model, we adapted here retroviral-insertional mutagenesis to stromal cells to identify novel tumor-associated genes in TAFs. We successfully identified 20 gene candidates that might modulate tumor growth if altered in TAFs at genomic level. To validate our finding, the function of one of the candidate genes, tubulin tyrosine ligase (Ttl), was further studied in TAFs from fibrosarcoma, colon, breast and hepatocarcinoma. We demonstrated that down-regulated TTL expression in TAFs indeed promoted tumor growth in mice. Interestingly, decreased expression of TTL in tumor stromal cells also correlated with poor outcome in human colon carcinoma. Thus, the co-injection model of tumor cells with retrovirus-modified fibroblasts proved a valid method to identify tumor-modulating genes in TAFs, allowing for a deeper insight into the role of the stroma for tumor development.

Keywords: Ttl; Tumor-associated fibroblasts; co-injection model; retrovirus-insertional mutagenesis; tumor-promoting gene.