Single-cell transcriptomic analysis of tumor- derived fibroblasts and normal tissue-resident fibroblasts reveals fibroblast heterogeneity in breast cancer

Aimy Sebastian, Nicholas R. Hum, Kelly A. Martin, Sean F. Gilmore, Ivana Peran, Stephen W. Byers, Elizabeth K. Wheeler, Matthew A. Coleman, Gabriela G. Loots

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are a prominent stromal cell type in solid tumors and molecules secreted by CAFs play an important role in tumor progression and metastasis. CAFs coexist as heterogeneous populations with potentially different biological functions. Although CAFs are a major component of the breast cancer stroma, molecular and phenotypic heterogeneity of CAFs in breast cancer is poorly understood. In this study, we investigated CAF heterogeneity in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) using a syngeneic mouse model, BALB/c-derived 4T1 mammary tumors. Using single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), we identified six CAF subpopulations in 4T1 tumors including: 1) myofibroblastic CAFs, enriched for α-smooth muscle actin and several other contractile proteins; 2) ‘inflammatory’ CAFs with elevated expression of inflammatory cytokines; and 3) a CAF subpopulation expressing major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II proteins that are generally expressed in antigen-presenting cells. Comparison of 4T1- derived CAFs to CAFs from pancreatic cancer revealed that these three CAF subpopulations exist in both tumor types. Interestingly, cells with inflammatory and MHC class II-expressing CAF profiles were also detected in normal breast/pancreas tissue, suggesting that these phenotypes are not tumor microenvironment-induced. This work enhances our understanding of CAF heterogeneity, and specifically targeting these CAF subpopulations could be an effective therapeutic approach for treating highly aggressive TNBCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1307
JournalCancers
Volume12
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Breast cancer
  • CAF heterogeneity
  • Cancer-associated fibroblasts
  • Gene expression profiling
  • Inflammatory fibroblasts
  • Mammary fat pad
  • Myofibroblasts
  • Normal fibroblasts
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • ScRNA-seq

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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