Tumor-Derived Thymic Stromal Lymphopoietin Expands Bone Marrow B-cell Precursors in Circulation to Support Metastasis

Cancer Res. 2019 Nov 15;79(22):5826-5838. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-19-1058. Epub 2019 Oct 1.


Immature B cells in the bone marrow emigrate into the spleen during adult lymphopoiesis. Here, we report that emigration is shifted to earlier B-cell stages in mice with orthotopic breast cancer, spontaneous ovarian cancer, and possibly in human breast carcinoma. Using mouse and human bone marrow aspirates and mouse models challenged with highly metastatic 4T1 breast cancer cells, we demonstrated that this was the result of secretion of thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) by cancer cells. First, TSLP downregulated surface expression of bone marrow (BM) retention receptors CXCR4 and VLA4 in B-cell precursors, increasing their motility and, presumably, emigration. Then, TSLP supported peripheral survival and proliferation of BM B-cell precursors such as pre-B-like cells. 4T1 cancer cells used the increased pool of circulating pre-B-like cells to generate metastasis-supporting regulatory B cells. As such, the loss of TSLP expression in cancer cells alone or TSLPR deficiency in B cells blocked both accumulation of pre-B-like cells in circulation and cancer metastasis, implying that the pre-B cell-TSLP axis can be an attractive therapeutic target. SIGNIFICANCE: Cancer cells induce premature emigration of B-cell precursors from the bone marrow to generate regulatory B cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Bone Marrow / metabolism*
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Lymphopoiesis / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Precursor Cells, B-Lymphoid / metabolism*
  • Spleen / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • thymic stromal lymphopoietin