Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are key actors in modulating the progression of many solid tumors such as breast cancer (BC). Herein, we identify an integrin α11/PDGFRβ+ CAF subset displaying tumor-promoting features in BC. In the preclinical MMTV-PyMT mouse model, integrin α11-deficiency led to a drastic reduction of tumor progression and metastasis. A clear association between integrin α11 and PDGFRβ was found at both transcriptional and histological levels in BC specimens. High stromal integrin α11/PDGFRβ expression was associated with high grades and poorer clinical outcome in human BC patients. Functional assays using five CAF subpopulations (one murine, four human) revealed that integrin α11 promotes CAF invasion and CAF-induced tumor cell invasion upon PDGF-BB stimulation. Mechanistically, integrin α11 pro-invasive activity relies on its ability to interact with PDGFRβ in a ligand-dependent manner and to promote its downstream JNK activation, leading to the production of tenascin C, a pro-invasive matricellular protein. Pharmacological inhibition of PDGFRβ and JNK impaired tumor cell invasion induced by integrin α11-positive CAFs. Collectively, our study uncovers an integrin α11-positive subset of pro-tumoral CAFs that exploits PDGFRβ/JNK signalling axis to promote tumor invasiveness in BC.
Keywords: Breast cancer; Cell Biology; Cell migration/adhesion; Fibrosis; Oncology.