Metastatic breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer-associated death in women. The progression of this fatal disease is associated with inflammatory responses that promote cancer cell growth and dissemination, eventually leading to a reduction of overall survival. However, the mechanism(s) of the inflammation-boosted cancer progression remains unclear. In this study, we found for the first time that an extracellular cytokine, S100A8/A9, accelerates breast cancer growth and metastasis upon binding to a cell surface receptor, melanoma cell adhesion molecule (MCAM). Our molecular analyses revealed an important role of ETS translocation variant 4 (ETV4), which is significantly activated in the region downstream of MCAM upon S100A8/A9 stimulation, in breast cancer progression in vitro as well as in vivo. The MCAM-mediated activation of ETV4 induced a mobile phenotype called epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in cells, since we found that ETV4 transcriptionally upregulates ZEB1, a strong EMT inducer, at a very high level. In contrast, downregulation of either MCAM or ETV4 repressed EMT, resulting in greatly weakened tumor growth and lung metastasis. Overall, our results revealed that ETV4 is a novel transcription factor regulated by the S100A8/A9-MCAM axis, which leads to EMT through ZEB1 and thereby to metastasis in breast cancer cells. Thus, therapeutic strategies based on our findings might improve patient outcomes.
Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.