Alterations in pericyte subpopulations are associated with elevated blood-tumor barrier permeability in experimental brain metastasis of breast cancer

L. Tiffany Lyle, Paul R. Lockman, Chris E. Adkins, Afroz Shareef Mohammad, Emily Sechrest, Emily Hua, Diane Palmieri, David J. Liewehr, Seth M. Steinberg, Wojciech Kloc, Ewa Izycka-Swieszewska, Renata Duchnowska, Naema Nayyar, Priscilla K. Brastianos, Patricia S. Steeg, Brunilde Gril

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Purpose: The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is modified to a blood-tumor barrier (BTB) as a brain metastasis develops from breast or other cancers. We (i) quantified the permeability of experimental brain metastases, (ii) determined the composition of the BTB, and (iii) identified which elements of the BTB distinguished metastases of lower permeability from those with higher permeability. Experimental Design: A SUM190-BR3 experimental inflammatory breast cancer brain metastasis subline was established. Experimental brain metastases from this model system and two previously reported models (triple-negative MDA-231-BR6, HER2+ JIMT-1-BR3) were serially sectioned; low- and high-permeability lesions were identified with systemic 3-kDa Texas Red dextran dye. Adjoining sections were used for quantitative immunofluorescence to known BBB and neuroinflammatory components. One-sample comparisons against a hypothesized value of one were performed with the Wilcoxon signed-rank test. Results: When uninvolved brain was compared with any brain metastasis, alterations in endothelial, pericytic, astrocytic, and microglial components were observed. When metastases with relatively low and high permeability were compared, increased expression of a desmin+ subpopulation of pericytes was associated with higher permeability (231-BR6 P=0.0002; JIMT-1-BR3 P = 0.004; SUM190-BR3 P = 0.008); desmin+ pericytes were also identified in human craniotomy specimens. Trends of reduced CD13+ pericytes (231-BR6 P = 0.014; JIMT-1-BR3 P = 0.002, SUM190-BR3, NS) and laminin α2 (231-BR6 P = 0.001; JIMT-1-BR3 P = 0.049; SUM190-BR3 P = 0.023) were also observed with increased permeability. Conclusions: We provide the first account of the composition of the BTB in experimental brain metastasis. Desmin+ pericytes and laminin α2 are potential targets for the development of novel approaches to increase chemotherapeutic efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5287-5299
Number of pages13
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Intramural Program of the NCI, U.S. Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, grant number: W81 XWH-062-0033, and a research grant from the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Association for Cancer Research.


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