MiR-181b modulates EGFR-dependent VCAM-1 expression and monocyte adhesion in glioblastoma

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Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) originate as circulating monocytes, and are recruited to gliomas, where they facilitate tumor growth and migration. Understanding the interaction between TAM and cancer cells may identify therapeutic targets for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) is a cytokine-induced adhesion molecule expressed on the surface of cancer cells, which is involved in interactions with immune cells. Analysis of the glioma patient database and tissue immunohistochemistry showed that VCAM-1 expression correlated with the clinico-pathological grade of gliomas. Here, we found that VCAM-1 expression correlated positively with monocyte adhesion to GBM, and knockdown of VCAM-1 abolished the enhancement of monocyte adhesion. Importantly, upregulation of VCAM-1 is dependent on epidermal-growth-factor-receptor (EGFR) expression, and inhibition of EGFR effectively reduced VCAM-1 expression and monocyte adhesion activity. Moreover, GBM possessing higher EGFR levels (U251 cells) had higher VCAM-1 levels compared to GBMs with lower levels of EGFR (GL261 cells). Using two- and three-dimensional cultures, we found that monocyte adhesion to GBM occurs via integrin α4β1, which promotes tumor growth and invasion activity. Increased proliferation and tumor necrosis factor-α and IFN-γ levels were also observed in the adherent monocytes. Using a genetic modification approach, we demonstrated that VCAM-1 expression and monocyte adhesion were regulated by the miR-181 family, and lower levels of miR-181b correlated with high-grade glioma patients. Our results also demonstrated that miR-181b/protein phosphatase 2A-modulated SP-1 de-phosphorylation, which mediated the EGFR-dependent VCAM-1 expression and monocyte adhesion to GBM. We also found that the EGFR-dependent VCAM-1 expression is mediated by the p38/STAT3 signaling pathway. Our study suggested that VCAM-1 is a critical modulator of EGFR-dependent interaction of monocytes with GBM, which raises the possibility of developing effective and improved therapies for GBM.

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