The regulatory effect of hyaluronan on human mesenchymal stem cells' fate modulates their interaction with cancer cells in vitro

Sci Rep. 2021 Oct 27;11(1):21229. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-00754-0.


Metastatic spread of cancer cells into a pre-metastatic niche is highly dependent on a supporting microenvironment. Human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (bmMSCs) contribute to the tumor microenvironment and promote cancer metastasis by inducing epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and immune evasion. The underlying mechanisms, however, are incompletely understood. The glycosaminoglycan hyaluronan (HA) is a central component of the extracellular matrix and has been shown to harbor pro-metastatic properties. In this study we investigated the highly disseminating breast cancer and glioblastoma multiforme cell lines MDA-MB-321 and U87-MG which strongly differ in their metastatic potential to evaluate the impact of HA on tumor promoting features of bmMSC and their interaction with tumor cells. We show that adipogenic differentiation of bmMSC is regulated by the HA-matrix. This study reveals that MDA-MB-231 cells inhibit this process by the induction of HA-synthesis in bmMSCs and thus preserve the pro-tumorigenic properties of bmMSC. Furthermore, we show that adhesion of MDA-MB-231 cells to bmMSC is facilitated by the tumor cell-induced HA-rich matrix and is mediated by the HA-receptor LAYN. We postulate that invasive breast cancer cells modulate the HA-matrix of bmMSC to adapt the pre-metastatic niche. Thus, the HA-matrix provides a potential novel therapeutic target to prevent cancer metastasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology
  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Glioblastoma / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronic Acid / metabolism*
  • Lectins, C-Type / metabolism
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Tumor Microenvironment*


  • LAYN protein, human
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Hyaluronic Acid