Acquisition of a metastatic phenotype by breast cancer cells includes alternations of multigenic programs that permit tumor cells to metastasize to distant organs. Here, we report that angiopoietin-2 (Ang2), a known growth factor, is capable of promoting breast cancer cell invasion leading to metastasis. Analysis of 185 primary human breast cancer specimens that include 97 tumors showing lymph node and/or distant metastasis reveals a significant correlation between the expression of Ang2 and E-cadherin, Snail, metastatic potential, tumor grade, and lymph-vascular invasion during breast cancer progression. Using a xenograft model, we show that overexpression of Ang2 in poorly metastatic MCF-7 breast cancer cells suppresses expression of E-cadherin and induces Snail expression and phosphorylation of Akt and glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β) promoting metastasis to the lymph nodes and lung. In cell culture, Ang2 promotes cell migration and invasion in Tie2-deficient breast cancer cells through the α5β1 integrin/integrin-linked kinase (ILK)/Akt, GSK-3β/Snail/ E-cadherin signaling pathway. Inhibition of ILK and the α5β 1 integrin abrogates Ang2 modulation of Akt, GSK-3β, Snail, and E-cadherin and Ang2-stimulated breast cancer cell migration and invasion. Together, these results underscore the significant contribution of Ang2 in cancer progression, not only by stimulating angiogenesis but also by promoting metastasis, and provide a mechanism by which breast cancer cells acquire an enhanced invasive phenotype contributing to metastasis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research