TGF-β has limited effects on ovarian cancer cells, but its contributions to ovarian tumor growth might be mediated through elements of the tumor microenvironment. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that TGF modulates ovarian cancer progression by modulating the contribution of cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) that are present in the microenvironment. Transcriptome profiling of microdissected stromal and epithelial components of high-grade serous ovarian tumors and TGF-β-treated normal ovarian fibroblasts identified versican (VCAN) as a key upregulated target gene in CAFs. Functional evaluations in coculture experiments showed that TGF-β enhanced the aggressiveness of ovarian cancer cells by upregulating VCAN in CAFs. VCAN expression was regulated in CAFs through TGF-β receptor type II and SMAD signaling. Upregulated VCAN promoted the motility and invasion of ovarian cancer cells by activating the NF-kB signaling pathway and by upregulating expression of CD44, matrix metalloproteinase-9, and the hyaluronan-mediated motility receptor. Our work identified a TGF-β-inducible gene signature specific to CAFs in advanced high-grade serous ovarian tumors, and showed how TGF-β stimulates ovarian cancer cell motility and invasion by upregulating the CAF-specific gene VCAN. These findings suggest insights to develop or refine strategies for TGF-β-targeted therapy of ovarian cancer.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research