Background: Patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) often have poorer prognosis than those with other subtypes because of its aggressive behaviors. Cancer cells are heterogeneous, and only a few highly metastatic subclones metastasize. Although the majority of subclones may not metastasize, they could contribute by releasing factors that increase the capacity of highly metastatic cells and/or provide a favorable tumor microenvironment (TME). Here, we analyzed the interclonal communication in TNBC which leads to efficient cancer progression, particularly lung metastasis, using the polyclonal murine 4T1 BC model. Methods: We isolated two 4T1 subclones, LM.4T1 and HM.4T1 cells with a low and a high metastatic potential, respectively, and examined the effects of LM.4T1 cells on the behaviors of HM.4T1 cells using the cell scratch assay, sphere-forming assay, sphere invasion assay, RT-qPCR, and western blotting in vitro. We also examined the contribution of LM.4T1 cells to the lung metastasis of HM.4T1 cells and TME in vivo. To identify a critical factor which may be responsible for the effects by LM.4T1 cells, we analyzed the data obtained from the GEO database. Results: Co-injection of LM.4T1 cells significantly augmented lung metastases by HM.4T1 cells. LM.4T1-derived exosomes promoted the migration and invasion of HM.4T1 cells in vitro, and blocking the secretion of exosome abrogated their effects on HM.4T1 cells. Analyses of data obtained from the GEO database suggested that Wnt7a might be a critical factor responsible for the enhancing effects. In fact, a higher level of Wnt7a was detected in LM.4T1 cells, especially in exosomes, than in HM.4T1 cells, and deletion of Wnt7a in LM.4T1 cells significantly decreased the lung metastasis of HM.4T1 cells. Further, treatment with Wnt7a increased the spheroid formation by HM.4T1 cells via activation of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway. Finally, infiltration of αSMA-positive fibroblasts and angiogenesis was more prominent in tumors of LM.4T1 cells and deletion of Wnt7a in LM.4T1 cells markedly reduced angiogenesis. Conclusions: We demonstrated, for the first time, that a low metastatic subclone can enhance lung metastasis of highly metastatic subclone via exosomal Wnt7a and propose Wnt7a as a molecular target to treat TNBC patients.
- Breast cancer
- Epithelial mesenchymal transition
- Tumor microenvironment
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research