de Boeck M, Cui C, Mulder AA, Jost CR, Ikeno S, Ten Dijke P
Sci Rep 6 (-) 24968 [2016-04-26; online 2016-04-26]
The transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) family is known to play critical roles in cancer progression. While the dual role of TGF-β is well described, the function of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) is unclear. In this study, we established the involvement of Smad6, a BMP-specific inhibitory Smad, in breast cancer cell invasion. We show that stable overexpression of Smad6 in breast cancer MCF10A M2 cells inhibits BMP signalling, thereby mitigating BMP6-induced suppression of mesenchymal marker expression. Using a zebrafish xenograft model, we demonstrate that overexpression of Smad6 potentiates invasion of MCF10A M2 cells and enhances the aggressiveness of breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells in vivo, whereas a reversed phenotype is observed after Smad6 knockdown. Interestingly, BMP6 pre-treatment of MDA-MB-231 cells induced cluster formation at the invasive site in the zebrafish. BMP6 also stimulated cluster formation of MDA-MB-231 cells co-cultured on Human Microvascular Endothelial Cells (HMEC)-1 in vitro. Electron microscopy illustrated an induction of cell-cell contact by BMP6. The clinical relevance of our findings is highlighted by a correlation of high Smad6 expression with poor distant metastasis free survival in ER-negative cancer patients. Collectively, our data strongly indicates the involvement of Smad6 and BMP signalling in breast cancer cell invasion in vivo.