The IL1β-IL1R signaling is involved in the stimulatory effects triggered by hypoxia in breast cancer cells and cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs)

Rosamaria Lappano, Marianna Talia, Francesca Cirillo, Damiano Cosimo Rigiracciolo, Rita Guzzi, Anna Maria Miglietta, Ernestina Marianna De Francesco, Antonino Befiore, Andrew H Sims, Marcello Maggiolini

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Background: Hypoxia plays a relevant role in tumor-related inflammation toward the metastatic spread and cancer aggressiveness. The pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1β (IL-β) and its cognate receptor IL1R1 contribute to the initiation and progression of breast cancer determining protumorigenic
inflammatory responses. The transcriptional target of the hypoxia inducible factor-1α(HIF-1α) namely the G protein estrogen receptor (GPER) mediates a feedforward loop coupling IL-1β induction by breast cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) to IL1R1 expression by breast cancer cells toward the regulation of target genes and relevant biological responses. Methods: In order to ascertain the correlation of IL-β with HIF-1α and further hypoxia-related genes in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients, a bioinformatics analysis was performed using the information provided by The Invasive Breast Cancer Cohort of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project and Molecular Taxonomy of Breast Cancer International Consortium (METABRIC) datasets. Gene
expression correlation, statistical analysis and gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) were carried out with R studio packages. Pathway enrichment analysis was evaluated with Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathway. TNBC cells and primary CAFs were used as model system. The molecular mechanisms implicated in the regulation of IL-1β by hypoxia toward a metastatic gene expression profile and invasive properties were assessed performing gene and protein expression studies, PCR arrays, gene silencing and immunofluorescence analysis, co-immunoprecipitation and ChiP assays, ELISA, cell spreading, invasion and spheroid formation. Results: We first determined
that IL-1β expression correlates with the levels of HIF-1α as well as with a hypoxia-related gene signature in TNBC patients. Next, we demonstrated that hypoxia triggers a functional liaison among HIF-1α, GPER and the IL-1β/IL1R1 signaling toward a metastatic gene signature and a feed-forward loop of IL-1β that leads to proliferative and invasive responses in TNBC cells. Furthermore, we found that the IL-1β released in the conditioned medium of TNBC cells exposed to hypoxic conditions promotes an invasive phenotype of CAFs. Conclusions: Our data shed new light on the role of hypoxia in the activation of the IL-1β/IL1R1 signaling, which in turn triggers aggressive features in
both TNBC cells and CAFs. Hence, our findings provide novel evidence regarding the mechanismsthrough which the hypoxic tumor microenvironment may contribute to breast cancer progression and suggest further targets useful in more comprehensive therapeutic strategies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of experimental & clinical cancer research : CR
Early online date10 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Aug 2020


  • hypoxia
  • hypoxia inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α)
  • interleukin-1β (IL-β)
  • G protein estrogen receptor (GPER)
  • breast canser
  • cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs)

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