The Agpat4/LPA axis in colorectal cancer cells regulates antitumor responses via p38/p65 signaling in macrophages

Signal Transduct Target Ther. 2020 Mar 27;5(1):24. doi: 10.1038/s41392-020-0117-y.


Lipid metabolic reprogramming plays an essential role in regulating the progression of colorectal cancer (CRC). However, the effect of lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) metabolism on CRC development is incompletely characterized. Here, we compared the mRNA levels of human CRC tissues to those of paracarcinoma tissues and focused on the notably enriched LPA metabolic pathways. We identified and verified that 1-acylglycerol-3-phosphate O-acyltransferase 4 (Agpat4) was aberrantly expressed in CRC tissues and predicted poor survival in CRC patients. Manipulating Agpat4 expression in CRC cells did not affect the growth or migration of CRC cells in vitro, whereas Agpat4 silencing suppressed CRC cell growth in subcutaneous and peritoneal xenograft models. Mechanistically, Agpat4 silencing-induced LPA release from CRC cells and polarized macrophages to an M1-like phenotype through LPA receptors 1 and 3. This M1 activation, characterized by elevated p38/p65 signaling and increased proinflammatory cytokines, promoted the infiltration and activation of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in the tumor microenvironment. Modulation of the Agpat4/LPA/p38/p65 axis regulated macrophage polarization, T-cell activity and CRC progression. Notably, combined therapy with LPA and regular chemotherapy drugs synergistically suppressed CRC development. Taken together, our results showed that the Agpat4/LPA axis in CRC cells regulated p38/p65 signaling-dependent macrophage polarization, T-cell activation, and CRC progression. The Agpat4/LPA/p38/p65 axis might represent a potential target for therapy in the clinic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 1-Acylglycerol-3-Phosphate O-Acyltransferase / genetics*
  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Heterografts
  • Humans
  • Lysophospholipids / genetics
  • Lysophospholipids / metabolism
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Receptors, Lysophosphatidic Acid / genetics*
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Tumor Microenvironment / genetics
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / genetics


  • LPAR1 protein, human
  • LPAR3 protein, human
  • Lysophospholipids
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Lysophosphatidic Acid
  • 1-Acylglycerol-3-Phosphate O-Acyltransferase
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • lysophosphatidic acid