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Open Access Research article

Syndecan-2 is upregulated in colorectal cancer cells through interactions with extracellular matrix produced by stromal fibroblasts

Carolina Meloni Vicente, Ritchelli Ricci, Helena Bonciani Nader and Leny Toma*

Author Affiliations

Disciplina de Biologia Molecular, Departamento de Bioquímica, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, UNIFESP, Rua Três de Maio, 100 – 4º andar, Vila Clementino, São Paulo, SP CEP 04044-020, Brazil

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BMC Cell Biology 2013, 14:25  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-14-25

Published: 25 May 2013



The extracellular matrix (ECM) influences the structure, viability and functions of cells and tissues. Recent evidence indicates that tumor cells and stromal cells interact through direct cell-cell contact, the production of ECM components and the secretion of growth factors. Syndecans are a family of transmembrane heparan sulfate proteoglycans that are involved in cell adhesion, motility, proliferation and differentiation. Syndecan-2 has been found to be highly expressed in colorectal cancer cell lines and appears to be critical for cancer cell behavior. We have examined the effect of stromal fibroblast-produced ECM on the production of proteoglycans by colorectal cancer cell lines.


Our results showed that in a highly metastatic colorectal cancer cell line, HCT-116, syndecan-2 expression is enhanced by fibroblast ECM, while the expression of other syndecans decreased. Of the various components of the stromal ECM, fibronectin was the most important in stimulating the increase in syndecan-2 expression. The co-localization of syndecan-2 and fibronectin suggests that these two molecules are involved in the adhesion of HCT-116 cells to the ECM. Additionally, we demonstrated an increase in the expression of integrins alpha-2 and beta-1, in addition to an increase in the expression of phospho-FAK in the presence of fibroblast ECM. Furthermore, blocking syndecan-2 with a specific antibody resulted in a decrease in cell adhesion, migration, and organization of actin filaments.


Overall, these results show that interactions between cancer cells and stromal ECM proteins induce significant changes in the behavior of cancer cells. In particular, a shift from the expression of anti-tumorigenic syndecans to the tumorigenic syndecan-2 may have implications in the migratory behavior of highly metastatic tumor cells.

Colorectal cancer; Cancer-stroma interaction; Proteoglycans; Syndecan-2; Fibronectin