miR-149 suppresses breast cancer metastasis by blocking paracrine interactions with macrophages
Paracrine activation of cells contained in the tumor microenvironment promotes tumor progression and metastasis. In breast cancer, malignant cells recruit and educate macrophages into a M2 tumor-promoting phenotype that supports the metastatic spread of cancer cells. Here, we show that miR-149 functions as a metastasis-suppressing microRNA in breast cancer cells by limiting colony-stimulating factor-1 (CSF1)-dependent recruitment and M2 polarization of macrophages. In lymph node-positive, triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) tissues, low miR-149 expression correlated with reduced macrophage infiltration and patient survival. By directly targeting CSF1, miR-149 expression in TNBC cell lines (MDA-MB-231 and BT-549) inhibited the recruitment of human monocytic THP-1 cells and primary human macrophages. Furthermore, in macrophages co-cultured with MDA-MB-231 cells expressing miR-149, epidermal growth factor (EGF) and amphiregulin expression levels were strongly reduced, resulting in reduced EGF receptor activation in the cancer cells. In vivo, lung metastases developing from orthotopic MDA-MB-231 tumors were reduced by 75% by miR-149 expression and this was associated with impaired M2 macrophage infiltration of the primary tumors. These data suggest that miR-149 downregulation functionally contributes to breast tumor progression by recruiting macrophages to the tumor and facilitating CSF1 and EGF receptor crosstalk between cancer cells and macrophages.