FGF-1 and FGF-2 are pleiotropic growth factors for many cell types, operating through the activation of specific transmembrane FGF receptors (FGFRs). The role of these factors in tumor progression was investigated, with specific discrimination between their autocrine and non autocrine cellular activity. The rat bladder carcinoma NBT-II cells were engineered to produce FGF-1 or 18 kDa FGF-2 in the presence or absence of their specific receptor. Non-autocrine cells that produced FGF-1 or FGF-2 but lacked FGFRs were epithelial and reminiscent of the parental NBT-II cells. Whilst autocrine cells, which both constitutively produced and secreted the growth factor and expressed FGFRs, had a highly invasive mesenchymal phenotype. Correspondingly, the autocrine cells were highly tumorigenic in vivo compared to the parental and non-autocrine cells, which correlated with the increased production of uPAR and active uPA and increased in vitro invasive potential. Although all cells produced VEGF, only tumors derived from cells that produced FGF-1 or FGF-2 were highly vascularized, suggesting that these two growth factors could be involved in the angiogenic process by activating host endothelial cells. As a result of activation of the FGFR in autocrine cells, changes in cell morphology and an increase in the invasive and tumorigenic properties were observed, however no in vitro or in vivo differential functions between FGF-1 and FGF-2 could be identified in this system. In conclusion, our data demonstrates that rapid tumor development is not dependent upon increased tumor vascularization, suggesting that 'basal' angiogenesis, probably mediated by VEGF, is sufficient to support tumor growth.
- FGF signaling
- Tumor growth