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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Quantitative phosphoproteomic analysis reveals reciprocal activation of receptor tyrosine kinases between cancer epithelial cells and stromal fibroblasts.



Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are one of the most important components of tumor stroma and play a key role in modulating tumor growth. However, a mechanistic understanding of how CAFs communicate with tumor cells to promote their proliferation and invasion is far from complete. A major reason for this is that most current techniques and model systems do not capture the complexity of signal transduction that occurs between CAFs and tumor cells.


In this study, we employed a stable isotope labeling with amino acids in cell culture (SILAC) strategy to label invasive breast cancer cells, MDA-MB-231, and breast cancer patient-derived CAF this has already been defined above cells. We used an antibody-based phosphotyrosine peptide enrichment method coupled to LC-MS/MS to catalog and quantify tyrosine phosphorylation-mediated signal transduction events induced by the bidirectional communication between patient-derived CAFs and tumor cells.


We discovered that distinct signaling events were activated in CAFs and in tumor epithelial cells during the crosstalk between these two cell types. We identified reciprocal activation of a number of receptor tyrosine kinases including EGFR, FGFR1 and EPHA2 induced by this bidirectional communication.


Our study not only provides insights into the mechanisms of the interaction between CAFs and tumor cells, but the model system described here could be used as a prototype for analysis of intercellular communication in many different tumor microenvironments.

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