Adipose tissue is characterized as an endocrine organ that acts as a source of hormones and paracrine factors. In diseases such as cancer, endocrine and paracrine signals from adipose tissue contribute to cancer progression. Young individuals with estrogen receptor-alpha positive (ER-α+) breast cancer (BC) have an increased resistance to endocrine therapies, suggesting that alternative estrogen signaling is activated within these cells. Despite this, the effects of stromal age on the endocrine response in BC are not well defined. To identify differences between young and aged ER-α+ breast tumors, RNA sequencing data were obtained from The Cancer Genome Atlas. Analysis revealed enrichment of matrix and paracrine factors in young (≤40 years old) patients compared to aged (≥65 years old) tumor samples. Adipose-derived stromal/stem cells (ASCs) from noncancerous lipoaspirate of young and aged donors were evaluated for alterations in matrix production and paracrine secreted factors to determine if the tumor stroma could alter estrogen signaling. Young and aged ASCs demonstrated comparable proliferation, differentiation, and matrix production, but exhibited differences in the expression levels of inflammatory cytokines (Interferon gamma, interleukin [IL]-8, IL-10, Tumor necrosis factor alpha, IL-2, and IL-6). Conditioned media (CM)-based experiments showed that young ASC donor age elevated endocrine response in ER-α+ BC cell lines. MCF-7 ER-α+ BC cell line treated with secreted factors from young ASCs had enhanced ER-α regulated genes (PGR and SDF-1) compared to MCF-7 cells treated with aged ASC CM. Western blot analysis demonstrated increased activation levels of p-ER ser-167 in the MCF-7 cell line treated with young ASC secreted factors. To determine if ER-α+ BC cells heightened the cytokine release in ASCs, ASCs were stimulated with MCF-7-derived CM. Results demonstrated no change in growth factors or cytokines when treated with the ER-α+ secretome. In contrast to ER-α+ CM, the ER-α negative MDA-MB-231 derived CM demonstrated increased stimulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines in ASCs. While there was no observed change in the release of selected paracrine factors, MCF-7 cells did induce matrix production and a pro-adipogenic lineage commitment. The adipogenesis was evident by increased collagen content through Sirius Red/Fast Green Collagen stain, lipid accumulation evident by Oil Red O stain, and significantly increased expression in PPARγ mRNA expression. The data from this study provide evidence suggesting more of a subtype-dependent than an age-dependent difference in stromal response to BC, suggesting that this signaling is not heightened by reciprocal signals from ER-α+ BC cell lines. These results are important in understanding the mechanisms of estrogen signaling and the dynamic and reciprocal nature of cancer cell-stromal cell crosstalk that can lead to tumor heterogeneity and variance in response to therapy.
- adipose-derived stromal/stem cells
- breast cancer
- endocrine response
- paracrine signaling