Response of the neurovascular unit to brain metastatic breast cancer cells.Acta Neuropathol Commun 2019; 7(1):133AN
Therapeutic resistance of cerebral secondary tumours largely depends on unique aspects linked to the neurovascular unit, especially cerebral endothelial cells and astrocytes. By using advanced microscopy techniques, here we explored novel mechanisms related to the neurovascular unit during extravasation and proliferation of triple negative breast cancer cells in the brain. Metastatic mammary carcinoma cells arrested and elongated within one hour in cerebral microvessels, but their number decreased by almost 80% in the first two days. Interestingly, malignant cells induced vasoconstriction and development of intraluminal endothelial plugs, which isolated invading cells from the circulation. During diapedesis - which usually took place on day four and five after inoculation of the tumour cells - continuity of cerebral endothelial tight junctions remained intact, indicating migration of cancer cells through the transcellular pathway. In addition, metastatic cells induced formation of multiluminal vessels and claudin-5-positive endothelial blebs. However, even severe endothelial blebbing could be reversed and the vessel morphology was restored shortly after the tumour cells completed transendothelial migration. Similar to neuro-inflammatory leukocytes, tumour cells migrated not only through the endothelial layer, but through the glia limitans perivascularis as well. Nevertheless, along with the growth of metastatic lesions by co-option of pre-existing capillaries, astrocytes and astrocyte end-feet were gradually expelled from the vessels to the border of the tumour. Taken together, we identified previously unknown mechanisms involved in the reaction of brain resident cells to invading breast cancer cells. Our results contribute to a better understanding of the complex cross-talk between tumour cells and host cells in the brain, which is essential for the identification of new therapeutic targets in this devastating disease.