Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) treatment has improved in the last decade with the introduction of drugs targeting tumor angiogenesis. However, the 5-year survival of metastatic disease is still only 10-15%. Here, we explored the prognostic significance of compartment-specific expression of Neuropilin 1 (NRP1), a co-receptor for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). NRP1 expression was analyzed in RCC tumor vessels, in perivascular tumor cells, and generally in the tumor cell compartment. Moreover, complex formation between NRP1 and the main VEGF receptor, VEGFR2, was determined. Two RCC tissue microarrays were used; a discovery cohort consisting of 64 patients and a validation cohort of 314 patients. VEGFR2/NRP1 complex formation in cis (on the same cell) and trans (between cells) configurations was determined by in situ proximity ligation assay (PLA), and NRP1 protein expression in three compartments (endothelial cells, perivascular tumor cells, and general tumor cell expression) was determined by immunofluorescent staining. Expression of NRP1 in perivascular tumor cells was explored as a marker for RCC survival in the two RCC cohorts. Results were further validated using a publicly available gene expression dataset of clear cell RCC (ccRCC). We found that VEGFR2/NRP1 trans complexes were detected in 75% of the patient samples. The presence of trans VEGFR2/NRP1 complexes or perivascular NRP1 expression was associated with a reduced tumor vessel density and size. When exploring NRP1 as a biomarker for RCC prognosis, perivascular NRP1 and general tumor cell NRP1 protein expression correlated with improved survival in the two independent cohorts, and significant results were obtained also at the mRNA level using the publicly available ccRCC gene expression dataset. Only perivascular NRP1 expression remained significant in multivariable analysis. Our work shows that perivascular NRP1 expression is an independent marker of improved survival in RCC patients, and reduces tumor vascularization by forming complexes in trans with VEGFR2 in the tumor endothelium. © 2019 The Authors. The Journal of Pathology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
Keywords: in situ proximity ligation assay (PLA); NRP1; Neuropilin; VEGF; VEGFR2; kidney cancer; renal cell carcinoma (RCC); trans-complex.
© 2019 The Authors. The Journal of Pathology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.