Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)-TrKB signaling modulates cancer-endothelial cells interaction and affects the outcomes of triple negative breast cancer

Yi Fang Tsai, Ling Ming Tseng, Chih Yi Hsu, Muh Hwa Yang, Jen Hwey Chiu, Yi Ming Shyr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Aims: There is good evidence that the tumor microenvironment plays an important role in cancer metastasis and progression. Our previous studies have shown that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) participates in the process of metastasis and in the migration of cancer cells. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of BDNF on the tumor cell microenvironment, namely, the cancer cell-endothelial cell interaction of TNBC cells. Methods: We conducted oligoneucleotide microarray analysis of potential biomarkers that are able to differentiate recurrent TNBC from non-recurrent TNBC. The MDA-MB-231 and human endothelial HUVEC lines were used for this study and our approaches included functional studies, such as migration assay, as well as Western blot and real-time PCR analysis of migration and angiogenic signaling. In addition, we analyzed the survival outcome of TNBC breast cancer patients according to their expression level of BDNF using clinical samples. Results: The results demonstrated that BDNF was able to bring about autocrinal (MDA-MB-231) and paracrinal (HUVECs) regulation of BDNF-TrkB gene expression and this affected cell migratory activity. The BDNF-induced migratory activity was blocked by inhibitors of ERK, PI3K and TrkB when MDA-MB-231 cells were examined, but only an inhibitor of ERK blocked this activity when HUVEC cells were used. Furthermore, decreased migratory activity was found for Δ BDNF and Δ TrkB cell lines. Ingenuity pathway analysis (IPA) of MDA-MB-231 cells showed that BDNF is a key factor that is able to regulate a network made up of metalloproteases and calmodulin. Protein expression levels in a tissue array of tumor slices were found to be correlated with patient prognosis and the results showed that there was significant correlation of TrkB expression, but not of BDNF. expressionwith patient DFS and OS. Conclusion: Our study demonstrates that up-regulation of the BDNF signaling pathway seems tobe involved in the mechanism associated with early recurrence in triple negative breast cancer cell. In addition, BDNF can function in either an autocrine or a paracrine manner to increase the migration ability of both MDA-MB-231 cells and HUVEC cells. Finally, overexpression of TrkB, but not of BDNF, is significantly associated with a poor survival outcome for TNBC patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0178173
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2017


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