Proteomic Signatures of the Desmoplastic Invasion Front Reveal Collagen Type XII as a Marker of Myofibroblastic Differentiation During Colorectal Cancer Metastasis

George S. Karagiannis, Constantina Petraki, Ioannis Prassas, Punit Saraon, Natasha Musrap, Apostolos Dimitromanolakis, Eleftherios P. Diamandis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), represent a pivotal compartment of solid cancers (desmoplasia), and are causatively implicated in cancer development and progression. CAFs are recruited by growth factors secreted by cancer cells and they present a myofibroblastic phenotype, similar to the one obtained by resident fibroblasts during wound healing. Paracrine signaling between cancer cells and CAFs results in a unique protein expression profile in areas of desmoplastic reaction, which is speculated to drive metastasis. In an attempt to decipher large-scale proteomic profiles of the cancer invasive margins, we developed an in vitro coculture model system, based on tumor-host cell interactions between colon cancer cells and CAFs. Proteomic analysis of conditioned media derived from these cocultures coupled to mass spectrometry and bioinformatic analysis was performed to uncover myofibroblastic signatures of the cancer invasion front. Our analysis resulted in the identification and generation of a desmoplastic protein dataset (DPD), consisting of 152 candidate proteins of desmoplasia. By using monoculture exclusion datasets, a secretome algorithm and gene-expression meta-analysis in DPD, we specified a 22-protein "myofibroblastic signature" with putative importance in the regulation of colorectal cancer metastasis. Of these proteins, we investigated collagen type XII by immunohistochemistry, a fibril-associated collagen with interrupted triple helices (FACIT), whose expression has not been reported in desmoplastic lesions in any type of cancer. Collagen type XII was highly expressed in desmoplastic stroma by and around alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) positive CAFs, as well as in cancer cells lining the invasion front, in a small cohort of colon cancer patients. Other stromal markers, such as collagen type III, were also expressed in stromal collagen, but not in cancer cells. In a complementary fashion, gene expression meta-analysis revealed that COL12A1 is also an upregulated gene in colorectal cancer. Our proteomic analysis identified previously documented markers of tumor invasion fronts and our DPD could serve as a pool for future investigation of the tumor microenvironment. Collagen type XII is a novel candidate marker of myofibroblasts, and/or cancer cells undergoing dedifferentiation. Copyright:

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-285
Number of pages19
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer-associated fibroblasts
  • Collagen type Xii
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Desmoplasia
  • Proteomics
  • Secretome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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