Mechanical strain induces phenotypic changes in breast cancer cells and promotes immunosuppression in the tumor microenvironment

Academic Article


  • Breast cancer (BCa) proliferates within a complex, three-dimensional microenvironment amid heterogeneous biochemical and biophysical cues. Understanding how mechanical forces within the tumor microenvironment (TME) regulate BCa phenotype is of great interest. We demonstrate that mechanical strain enhanced the proliferation and migration of both estrogen receptor+ and triple-negative (TNBC) human and mouse BCa cells. Furthermore, a critical role for exosomes derived from cells subjected to mechanical strain in these pro-tumorigenic effects was identified. Exosome production by TNBC cells increased upon exposure to oscillatory strain (OS), which correlated with elevated cell proliferation. Using a syngeneic, orthotopic mouse model of TNBC, we identified that preconditioning BCa cells with OS significantly increased tumor growth and myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) and M2 macrophages in the TME. This pro-tumorigenic myeloid cell enrichment also correlated with a decrease in CD8+ T cells. An increase in PD-L1+ exosome release from BCa cells following OS supported additive T cell inhibitory functions in the TME. The role of exosomes in MDSC and M2 macrophage was confirmed in vivo by cytotracking fluorescent exosomes, derived from labeled 4T1.2 cells, preconditioned with OS. In addition, in vivo internalization and intratumoral localization of tumor-cell derived exosomes was observed within MDSCs, M2 macrophages, and CD45-negative cell populations following direct injection of fluorescently-labeled exosomes. Our data demonstrate that exposure to mechanical strain promotes invasive and pro-tumorigenic phenotypes in BCa cells, indicating that mechanical strain can impact the growth and proliferation of cancer cell, alter exosome production by BCa, and induce immunosuppression in the TME by dampening anti-tumor immunity.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Wang Y; Goliwas KF; Severino PE; Hough KP; Van Vessem D; Wang H; Tousif S; Koomullil RP; Frost AR; Ponnazhagan S
  • Start Page

  • 1503
  • End Page

  • 1516
  • Volume

  • 100
  • Issue

  • 12