Molecular signaling in the tumor microenvironment (TME) is complex, and crosstalk among various cell compartments in supporting metastasis remains poorly understood. In particular, the role of vascular pericytes, a critical cellular component in the TME, in cancer invasion and metastasis warrants further investigation. Here, we report that an elevation of FGF-2 signaling in samples from patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) and xenograft mouse models promoted NPC metastasis. Mechanistically, tumor cell-derived FGF-2 strongly promoted pericyte proliferation and pericyte-specific expression of an orphan chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 14 (CXCL14) via FGFR1/AHR signaling. Gain- and loss-of-function experiments validated that pericyte-derived CXCL14 promoted macrophage recruitment and polarization toward an M2-like phenotype. Genetic knockdown of FGF2 or genetic depletion of tumoral pericytes blocked CXCL14 expression and tumor-associated macrophage (TAM) infiltration. Pharmacological inhibition of TAMs by clodronate liposome treatment resulted in a reduction of FGF-2-induced pulmonary metastasis. Together, these findings shed light on the inflammatory role of tumoral pericytes in promoting TAM-mediated metastasis. We provide mechanistic insight into an FGF-2/FGFR1/pericyte/CXCL14/TAM stromal communication axis in NPC and propose an effective antimetastasis therapy concept by targeting a pericyte-derived inflammation for NPC or FGF-2hi tumors.
Keywords: Cancer; Immunology; Macrophages; Oncology; Pericytes.