Iron-Bound Lipocalin-2 from Tumor-Associated Macrophages Drives Breast Cancer Progression Independent of Ferroportin
Macrophages supply iron to the breast tumor microenvironment by enforced secretion of lipocalin-2 (Lcn-2)-bound iron as well as the increased expression of the iron exporter ferroportin (FPN). We aimed at identifying the contribution of each pathway in supplying iron for the growing tumor, thereby fostering tumor progression. Analyzing the expression profiles of Lcn-2 and FPN using the spontaneous polyoma-middle-T oncogene (PyMT) breast cancer model as well as mining publicly available TCGA (The Cancer Genome Atlas) and GEO Series(GSE) datasets from the Gene Expression Omnibus database (GEO), we found no association between tumor parameters and Lcn-2 or FPN. However, stromal/macrophage-expression of Lcn-2 correlated with tumor onset, lung metastases, and recurrence, whereas FPN did not. While the total iron amount in wildtype and Lcn-2−/− PyMT tumors showed no difference, we observed that tumor-associated macrophages from Lcn-2−/− compared to wildtype tumors stored more iron. In contrast, Lcn-2−/− tumor cells accumulated less iron than their wildtype counterparts, translating into a low migratory and proliferative capacity of Lcn-2−/− tumor cells in a 3D tumor spheroid model in vitro. Our data suggest a pivotal role of Lcn-2 in tumor iron-management, affecting tumor growth. This study underscores the role of iron for tumor progression and the need for a better understanding of iron-targeted therapy approaches.