The main cause of malignancy-related mortality is metastasis. Although metastatic progression is driven by diverse tumor-intrinsic mechanisms, there is a growing appreciation for the contribution of tumor-extrinsic elements of the tumor microenvironment, especially macrophages, which correlate with poor clinical outcomes. Macrophages consist of bone marrow–derived and tissue-resident populations. In contrast to bone marrow–derived macrophages, the transcriptional pathways that govern the pro-metastatic activities of tissue-resident macrophages (TRMs) remain less clear. Alveolar macrophages (AMs) are a TRM population with critical roles in tissue homeostasis and metastasis. Wnt/β-catenin signaling is a hallmark of cancer and has been identified as a pathologic regulator of AMs in infection. We tested the hypothesis that β-catenin expression in AMs enhances metastasis in solid tumor models. Using a genetic β-catenin gain-of-function approach, we demonstrated that (a) enhanced β-catenin in AMs heightened lung metastasis; (b) β-catenin activity in AMs drove a dysregulated inflammatory program strongly associated with Tnf expression; and (c) localized TNF-α blockade abrogated this metastatic outcome. Last, β-catenin gene CTNNB1 and TNF expression levels were positively correlated in AMs of patients with lung cancer. Overall, our findings revealed a Wnt/β-catenin/TNF-α pro-metastatic axis in AMs with potential therapeutic implications against tumors refractory to the antineoplastic actions of TNF-α.
Elliot D. Kramer, Stephanie L. Tzetzo, Sean H. Colligan, Mary L. Hensen, Craig M. Brackett, Björn E. Clausen, Makoto M. Taketo, Scott I. Abrams