Marsdenia tenacissima extract disturbs the interaction between tumor-associated macrophages and non-small cell lung cancer cells by targeting HDGF

J Ethnopharmacol. 2022 Nov 15;298:115607. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2022.115607. Epub 2022 Aug 13.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Marsdenia tenacissima (Roxb.) Wight et Arn. is a traditional Chinese herbal medicine, and its water-soluble ingredient Marsdenia tenacissima extract (MTE), was widely used for cancer treatment. The multi-pharmacological efficacies and mechanisms of MTE in directly inhibiting tumor cells have been extensively studied. However, the anti-tumor effects of MTE in the tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) microenvironment remain unclear.

Aim of the study: To uncover the role of hepatoma-derived growth factor (HDGF) in the interaction between TAMs and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells. To evaluate the anti-tumor effects of MTE on the vicious crosstalk between TAMs and NSCLC by targeting HDGF.

Materials and methods: HDGF-overexpression PC-9 and H292 NSCLC cell lines were constructed and verified. RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) was performed in HDGF-overexpression PC-9 cells to probe the differential expression of genes. THP-1-derived macrophages were characterized using specific markers after stimulation with phorbol-12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) and rhIL-4 or rhHDGF. The role of HDGF both in NSCLC cells and TAMs was determined using approaches like Western blot, qRT-PCR, ELISA, and flow cytometry. The interaction between tumor cells and TAMs were assessed by indirect co-culture H1975, PC-9 cells with M2 type macrophages. The effects of MTE on anti-tumor and macrophage polarization were evaluated in vitro and in vivo.

Results: RNA-seq results identified IL-4 as a critical response to HDGF in NSCLC. HDGF induced macrophages polarizing toward M2 type, and promoted NSCLC cells proliferation, migration and invasion in vitro. On the one hand, HDGF dose-dependently promoted IL-4 expression in NSCLC cells. On the other hand, HDGF induced M2 macrophage polarization through the IL-4/JAK1/STAT3 signaling pathway. MTE treatment significantly decreased the expression and secretion of HDGF in NSCLC cells. Meanwhile, MTE treatment led to M2 macrophage repolarization, as evidenced by decreased expression of M2 markers and increased levels of M1 markers. Importantly, MTE treatment significantly suppressed tumor development in C57BL/6 mice bearing Lewis lung cancer (LLC) cells in vivo, accompanied by decreased plasma HDGF levels, reduced M2 macrophages infiltration and increased M1 macrophages proportion in mice tumor tissues.

Conclusions: HDGF upregulated IL-4 expression in NSCLC cells, and promoted M2 polarization by the IL-4/JAK1/STAT3 signaling pathway in macrophages. MTE disturbed the interaction between NSCLC and TAMs in vitro, and inhibited tumor growth in vivo, at least in part, by suppressing HDGF. Therefore, our present study revealed a novel anti-tumor mechanism of MTE through inhibiting HDGF expression and enhancing macrophage polarization from M2 to M1 phenotype.

Keywords: Hepatoma-derived growth factor; M2 macrophages; Marsdenia tenacissima extract; Non-small cell lung cancer; Tumor microenvironment.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung* / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Interleukin-4
  • Lung Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Marsdenia*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Tumor Microenvironment
  • Tumor-Associated Macrophages


  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Plant Extracts
  • hepatoma-derived growth factor
  • Interleukin-4