Adenosine upregulates CXCR4 and enhances the proliferative and migratory responses of human carcinoma cells to CXCL12/SDF-1α

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The level of expression of the chemokine receptor CXCR4 has been shown to play a crucial role in determining the ability of cancer cells to metastasize from the primary tumor and become established in tissue sites that are rich in the CXCR4 ligand CXCL12/SDF-1α. High CXCR4 expression on cancer cells is associated with an increased risk of recurrence and poorer overall survival. We propose that local tissue mediators within the primary tumor or at secondary sites may modulate the level of CXCR4 expression and, therefore, potentially affect the ability of the cancer cells to metastasize. The purine nucleoside adenine-9-β-D-ribofuranoside (adenosine) is generated at high concentrations within the extracellular fluid of solid tumors because of their hypoxia. We show here that adenosine acts through A2A and A2B adenosine receptors on human colorectal carcinoma cells to upregulate CXCR4 mRNA expression up to 10-fold and selectively increases cell-surface CXCR4 protein up to 3-fold. This increase in cell-surface CXCR4 enables the carcinoma cells to migrate toward CXCL12, and enhances their proliferation in response to CXCL12. Adenosine may therefore be one of the factors within the tumor microenvironment that facilitates tumor dissemination, by upregulating CXCR4 on certain cancer cells and enhancing cellular responses to CXCL12.

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