The chemokine (CCL2-CCR2) signaling axis mediates perineural invasion

Shizhi He, Shuangba He, Chun Hao Chen, Sylvie Deborde, Richard L. Bakst, Natalya Chernichenko, William F. McNamara, Sei Young Lee, Fernando Barajas, Zhenkun Yu, Hikmat A. Al-Ahmadie, Richard J. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Perineural invasion is a form of cancer progression where cancer cells invade along nerves. This behavior is associated with poor clinical outcomes; therefore, it is critical to identify novel ligand-receptor interactions between nerves and cancer cells that support the process of perineural invasion. A proteomic profiler chemokine array was used to screen for nervederived factors secreted from tissue explants of dorsal root ganglion (DRG), and CCL2 was identified as a lead candidate. Prostate cancer cell line expression of CCR2, the receptor to CCL2, correlated closely with MAPK and Akt pathway activity and cell migration towards CCL2 and DRG. In vitro nerve and cancer coculture invasion assays of perineural invasion demonstrated that cancer cell CCR2 expression facilitates perineural invasion. Perineural invasion is significantly diminished in coculture assays when using DRG harvested from CCL2-/- knockout mice as compared with control CCL2 +/ + mice, indicating that CCR2 is required for perineural invasion in this murine model of perineural invasion. Furthermore, 20 of 21 (95%) patient specimens of prostate adenocarcinoma with perineural invasion exhibited CCR2 expression by immunohistochemistry, while just 3 of 13 (23%) lacking perineural invasion expressed CCR2. In summary, nerve-released CCL2 supports prostate cancer migration and perineural invasion though CCR2-mediated signaling. Implications: These results reveal CCL2-CCR2 signaling as a key ligand-receptor mechanism that mediates cancer cell communication with nerves during perineural invasion and highlight a potential future therapeutic target.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-390
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Cancer Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2015


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