Reciprocal interactions between prostate cancer cells and carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) mediate cancer development and progression; however, our understanding of the signalling pathways mediating these cellular interactions remains incomplete. To address this, we defined secretome changes upon co-culture of prostate epithelial or cancer cells with fibroblasts that mimic bi-directional communication in tumours. Using antibody arrays, we profiled conditioned media from mono- and co-cultures of prostate fibroblasts, epithelial and cancer cells, identifying secreted proteins that are upregulated in co-culture compared to mono-culture. Six of these (CXCL10, CXCL16, CXCL6, FST, PDGFAA, IL-17B) were functionally screened by siRNA knockdown in prostate cancer cell/fibroblast co-cultures, revealing a key role for follistatin (FST), a secreted glycoprotein that binds and bioneutralises specific members of the TGF-β superfamily, including activin A. Expression of FST by both cell types was required for the fibroblasts to enhance prostate cancer cell proliferation and migration, whereas FST knockdown in co-culture grafts decreased tumour growth in mouse xenografts. This study highlights the complexity of prostate cancer cell–fibroblast communication, demonstrates that co-culture secretomes cannot be predicted from individual cultures, and identifies FST as a tumour-microenvironment-derived secreted factor that represents a candidate therapeutic target.
- cell signalling
- tumour microenvironment