Ewing sarcoma (ES) develops in bones or soft tissues of children and adolescents. The presence of bone metastases is one of the most adverse prognostic factors, yet the mechanisms governing their formation remain unclear. As a transcriptional target of EWS-FLI1, the fusion protein driving ES transformation, neuropeptide Y (NPY) is highly expressed and released from ES tumors. Hypoxia up-regulates NPY and activates its pro-metastatic functions. To test the impact of NPY on ES metastatic pattern, ES cell lines, SK-ES1 and TC71, with high and low peptide release, respectively, were used in an orthotopic xenograft model. ES cells were injected into gastrocnemius muscles of SCID/beige mice, the primary tumors excised, and mice monitored for the presence of metastases. SK-ES1 xenografts resulted in thoracic extra-osseous metastases (67%) and dissemination to bone (50%) and brain (25%), while TC71 tumors metastasized to the lungs (70%). Bone dissemination in SK-ES1 xenografts associated with increased NPY expression in bone metastases and its accumulation in bone invasion areas. The genetic silencing of NPY in SK-ES1 cells reduced bone degradation. Our study supports the role for NPY in ES bone invasion and provides new models for identifying pathways driving ES metastases to specific niches and testing anti-metastatic therapeutics.
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