DOI: 10.3390/ijms25010148 ISSN: 1422-0067

Activation and Functions of Col6a1+ Fibroblasts in Colitis-Associated Cancer

Niki Chalkidi, Maria-Theodora Melissari, Ana Henriques, Athanasia Stavropoulou, George Kollias, Vasiliki Koliaraki
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Spectroscopy
  • Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine
  • Catalysis

Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) comprise a group of heterogeneous subpopulations with distinct identities indicative of their diverse origins, activation patterns, and pro-tumorigenic functions. CAFs originate mainly from resident fibroblasts, which are activated upon different stimuli, including growth factors and inflammatory mediators, but the extent to which they also maintain some of their homeostatic properties, at least at the earlier stages of carcinogenesis, is not clear. In response to cytokines, such as interleukin 1 (IL-1) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF), as well as microbial products, CAFs acquire an immunoregulatory phenotype, but its specificity and pathophysiological significance in individual CAF subsets is yet to be determined. In this study, we analyzed the properties of Col6a1-positive fibroblasts in colitis-associated cancer. We found that Col6a1+ cells partly maintain their homeostatic features during adenoma development, while their activation is characterized by the acquisition of a distinct proangiogenic signature associated with their initial perivascular location. In vitro and in vivo experiments showed that Col6a1+ cells respond to innate immune stimuli and exert pro-tumorigenic functions. However, Col6a1+-specific inhibition of TNF receptor 1 (TNFR1) or IL-1 receptor (IL-1R) signaling does not significantly affect tumorigenesis, suggesting that activation of other subsets acts in a compensatory way or that multiple immune stimuli are necessary to drive the proinflammatory activation of this subset. In conclusion, our results show that adenoma-associated CAF subsets can partly maintain the properties of homeostatic fibroblasts while they become activated to support tumor growth through distinct and compensatory mechanisms.

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