Sarcomas produce an abnormal extracellular matrix (ECM), which in turn provides instructive cues for cell growth and invasion. Neural EGF like-like molecule 1 (NELL1) is a secreted glycoprotein characterized by its nonneoplastic osteoinductive effects, yet it is highly expressed in skeletal sarcomas. Here, we show that genetic deletion of NELL1 markedly reduces invasive behavior across human osteosarcoma (OS) cell lines. NELL1 deletion resulted in reduced OS disease progression, inhibiting metastasis and improving survival in a xenograft mouse model. These observations were recapitulated with Nell1 conditional knockout in mouse models of p53/Rb-driven sarcomagenesis, which reduced tumor frequency and extended tumor-free survival. Transcriptomic and phosphoproteomic analyses demonstrated that NELL1 loss skews the expression of matricellular proteins associated with reduced FAK signaling. Culturing NELL1 knockout sarcoma cells on wild-type OS-enriched matricellular proteins reversed the phenotypic and signaling changes induced by NELL1 deficiency. In sarcoma patients, high expression of NELL1 correlated with decreased overall survival. These findings in mouse and human models suggest that NELL1 expression alters the sarcoma ECM, thereby modulating cellular invasive potential and prognosis. Disruption of NELL1 signaling may represent a novel therapeutic approach to short-circuit sarcoma disease progression. SIGNIFICANCE: NELL1 modulates the sarcoma matrisome to promote tumor growth, invasion, and metastasis, identifying the matrix-associated protein as an orchestrator of cell-ECM interactions in sarcomagenesis and disease progression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research