Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Cell Biology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Open Badges Research article

FAP-α (Fibroblast activation protein-α) is involved in the control of human breast cancer cell line growth and motility via the FAK pathway

Jun Jia12*, Tracey Amanda Martin1*, Lin Ye1 and Wen Guo Jiang1

Author Affiliations

1 Cardiff University-Peking University Cancer Institute, Cardiff University School of Medicine, Cardiff CF14 4XNWales, UK

2 The Breast Oncology Department, Beijing Cancer Hospital, Peking University School of Oncology, Beijing 100142, China

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Cell Biology 2014, 15:16  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-15-16

Published: 21 May 2014



Fibroblast Activation Protein alpha (FAP-α) or seprase is an integral membrane serine peptidase. Previous work has not satisfactorily explained both the suppression and promotion effects that have been observed in cancer. The purpose of this work was to investigate the role of FAP-α in human breast cancer. Expression of FAP-α was characterized in primary tumour samples and in cell lines, along with the effects of FAP-α expression on in vitro growth, invasion, attachment and migration. Furthermore the potential interaction of FAP-α with other signalling pathways was investigated.


FAP-α was significantly increased in patients with poor outcome and survival. In vitro results showed that breast cancer cells over expressing FAP-α had increased growth ability and impaired migratory ability. The growth of MDA-MB-231 cells and the adhesion and invasion ability of both MCF-7 cells and MDA-MB-231 cells were not dramatically influenced by FAP-α expression. Over-expression of FAP-α resulted in a reduction of phosphorylated focal adhesion kinase (FAK) level in both cells cultured in normal media and serum-free media. An inhibitor to FAK restored the reduced motility ability of both MCF-7exp cells and MDA-MB-231exp cells and prevented the change in phosphorylated FAK levels. However, inhibitors to PI3K, ERK, PLCϒ, NWASP, ARP2/3, and ROCK had no influence this.


FAP-α in significantly associated with poor outcome in patients with breast cancer. In vitro, FAP-α promotes proliferation and inhibits migration of breast cancer cells, potentially by regulating the FAK pathway. These results suggest FAP-α could be a target for future therapies.

FAP-α; FAK; Breast Cancer; Growth; Migration