Tumor Cell-Derived Angiopoietin-2 Promotes Metastasis in Melanoma

Cancer Res. 2020 Jun 15;80(12):2586-2598. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-19-2660. Epub 2020 Apr 17.


The angiopoietin (Angpt)-TIE signaling pathway controls vascular maturation and maintains the quiescent phenotype of resting vasculature. The contextual agonistic and antagonistic Tie2 ligand ANGPT2 is believed to be exclusively produced by endothelial cells, disrupting constitutive ANGPT1-TIE2 signaling to destabilize the microvasculature during pathologic disorders like inflammation and cancer. However, scattered reports have also portrayed tumor cells as a source of ANGPT2. Employing ISH-based detection of ANGPT2, we found strong tumor cell expression of ANGPT2 in a subset of patients with melanoma. Comparative analysis of biopsies revealed a higher fraction of ANGPT2-expressing tumor cells in metastatic versus primary sites. Tumor cell-expressed Angpt2 was dispensable for primary tumor growth, yet in-depth analysis of primary tumors revealed enhanced intratumoral necrosis upon silencing of tumor cell Angpt2 expression in the absence of significant immune and vascular alterations. Global transcriptional profiling of Angpt2-deficient tumor cells identified perturbations in redox homeostasis and an increased response to cellular oxidative stress. Ultrastructural analyses illustrated a significant increase of dysfunctional mitochondria in Angpt2-silenced tumor cells, thereby resulting in enhanced reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and downstream MAPK stress signaling. Functionally, enhanced ROS in Angpt2-silenced tumor cells reduced colonization potential in vitro and in vivo. Taken together, these findings uncover the hitherto unappreciated role of tumor cell-expressed ANGPT2 as an autocrine-positive regulator of metastatic colonization and validate ANGPT2 as a therapeutic target for a well-defined subset of patients with melanoma. SIGNIFICANCE: This study reveals that tumor cells can be a source of ANGPT2 in the tumor microenvironment and that tumor cell-derived ANGPT2 augments metastatic colonization by protecting tumor cells from oxidative stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Angiopoietin-2 / genetics
  • Angiopoietin-2 / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Autocrine Communication
  • Biopsy
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Melanoma / mortality
  • Melanoma / secondary*
  • Mice
  • Nevus / pathology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / mortality
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Tissue Array Analysis
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • ANGPT2 protein, human
  • Angiopoietin-2
  • Angpt2 protein, mouse
  • Reactive Oxygen Species