Lipid-laden lung mesenchymal cells foster breast cancer metastasis via metabolic reprogramming of tumor cells and natural killer cells.

Zheng Gong, The Jackson Laboratory
Qing Li, The Jackson Laboratory
Jiayuan Shi, The Jackson Laboratory
Edison Liu, The Jackson Laboratory
Leonard D. Shultz, The Jackson Laboratory
Guangwen Ren, The Jackson Laboratory


While the distant organ environment is known to support metastasis of primary tumors, its metabolic roles in this process remain underdetermined. Here, in breast cancer models, we found lung-resident mesenchymal cells (MCs) accumulating neutral lipids at the pre-metastatic stage. This was partially mediated by interleukin-1β (IL-1β)-induced hypoxia-inducible lipid droplet-associated (HILPDA) that subsequently represses adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL) activity in lung MCs. MC-specific ablation of the ATGL or HILPDA genes in mice reinforced and reduced lung metastasis of breast cancer respectively, suggesting a metastasis-promoting effect of lipid-laden MCs. Mechanistically, lipid-laden MCs transported their lipids to tumor cells and natural killer (NK) cells via exosome-like vesicles, leading to heightened tumor cell survival and proliferation and NK cell dysfunction. Blockage of IL-1β, which was effective singly, improved the efficacy of adoptive NK cell immunotherapy in mitigating lung metastasis. Collectively, lung MCs metabolically regulate tumor cells and anti-tumor immunity to facilitate breast cancer lung metastasis.