Background: Osteosarcoma (OSA) is the most common bone cancer in canines. Both transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) and Hippo pathway mediators have important roles in bone development, stemness, and cancer progression. The role of Hippo signalling effectors TAZ and YAP has never been addressed in canine OSA. Further, the cooperative role of TGFβ and Hippo signalling has yet to be explored in osteosarcoma. To address these gaps, this study investigated the prognostic value of TAZ and YAP alone and in combination with pSmad2 (a marker of active TGFβ signalling), as well as the involvement of a TGFβ-Hippo signalling crosstalk in tumourigenic properties of OSA cells in vitro. An in-house trial tissue microarray (TMA) which contained 16 canine appendicular OSA cases undergoing standard care and accompanying follow-up was used to explore the prognostic role of TAZ, YAP and pSmad2. Published datasets were used to test associations between TAZ and YAP mRNA levels, metastasis, and disease recurrence. Small interfering RNAs specific to TAZ and YAP were utilized in vitro alone or in combination with TGFβ treatment to determine their role in OSA viability, proliferation and migration.
Results: Patients with low levels of both YAP and pSmad2 when evaluated in combination had a significantly longer time to metastasis (log-rank test, p = 0.0058) and a longer overall survival (log rank test, p = 0.0002). No similar associations were found for TAZ and YAP mRNA levels. In vitro, TAZ knockdown significantly decreased cell viability, proliferation, and migration in metastatic cell lines, while YAP knockdown significantly decreased viability in three cell lines, and migration in two cell lines, derived from either primary tumours or their metastases. The impact of TGFβ signaling activation on these effects was cell line-dependent.
Conclusions: YAP and pSmad2 have potential prognostic value in canine appendicular osteosarcoma. Inhibiting YAP and TAZ function could lead to a decrease in viability, proliferation, and migratory capacity of canine OSA cells. Assessment of YAP and pSmad2 in larger patient cohorts in future studies are needed to further elucidate the role of TGFβ-Hippo signalling crosstalk in canine OSA progression.
Keywords: Canine osteosarcoma; Hippo signalling; Metastasis; Prognostic marker; TAZ; TGFβ; WWTR1; YAP1.