BackgroundBone is one of the most frequent metastatic sites of advanced breast cancer. Current therapeutic agents aim to inhibit osteoclast-mediated bone resorption but only have palliative effects. During normal bone remodeling, the balance between bone resorption and osteoblast-mediated bone formation is essential for bone homeostasis. One major function of osteoblast during bone formation is to secrete type I procollagen, which will then be processed before being crosslinked and deposited into the bone matrix.
MethodsSmall RNA sequencing and quantitative real-time PCR were used to detect miRNA levels in patient blood samples and in the cell lysates as well as extracellular vesicles of parental and bone-tropic MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. The effects of cancer cell-derived extracellular vesicles isolated by ultracentrifugation and carrying varying levels of miR-218 were examined in osteoblasts by quantitative real-time PCR, Western blot analysis, and P1NP bone formation marker analysis. Cancer cells overexpressing miR-218 were examined by transcriptome profiling through RNA sequencing to identify intrinsic genes and pathways influenced by miR-218.
ResultsWe show that circulating miR-218 is associated with breast cancer bone metastasis. Cancer-secreted miR-218 directly downregulates type I collagen in osteoblasts, whereas intracellular miR-218 in breast cancer cells regulates the expression of inhibin β subunits. Increased cancer secretion of inhibin βA results in elevated Timp3 expression in osteoblasts and the subsequent repression of procollagen processing during osteoblast differentiation.
ConclusionsHere we identify a twofold function of cancer-derived miR-218, whose levels in the blood are associated with breast cancer metastasis to the bone, in the regulation of type I collagen deposition by osteoblasts. The adaptation of the bone niche mediated by miR-218 might further tilt the balance towards osteolysis, thereby facilitating other mechanisms to promote bone metastasis.