A central issue in tumor biology is the understanding of the interactions between tumor cells and their environment. Using normal and ras oncogene transfected rat fibroblast cells, we now demonstrate that the transfected cells make altered extracellular matrices (ECM) and that their resulting ECM influence the proliferation and genetic regulation of human bladder cancer EJ cells.

Using Western blot analyses, we observed that the ras transfected fibroblast cells lacked the ability to produce extracellular matrix component laminin whereas the normal parental fibroblast cells were able to produce intact laminin. Both transfected and nontransfected fibroblast cells were able to synthesize other extracellular matrix molecules such as type IV collagen and fibronectin.

Human bladder tumor EJ cells were grown on ECM derived from normal and transfected rat fibroblast cells, and the proliferation rate and type IV collagen mRNA expression of EJ cells were determined. We observed that EJ cells, when grown on ECM derived from the ras transfected fibroblast cells, had a higher growth rate than when grown on ECM derived from the normal fibroblast cells (P < 0.037). Furthermore, EJ cells grown on ECM derived from transfected fibroblast cells showed up-regulation of type IV collagen mRNA expression when compared with EJ cells grown on ECM derived from nontransfected fibroblast cells. Finally EJ cells grown on purified laminin but not on collagen IV coated flasks showed the same level of type IV collagen mRNA expression as when grown on ECM derived from nontransfected parental fibroblast cells.

Haptotactic/motility assays with EJ cells and ECM derived from ras transfected and nontransfected fibroblast cells demonstrated that ECM of ras transfected fibroblast cells, but not the parental fibroblast cells, provided a permissive or fertile soil for EJ tumor cell invasion.

Finally, two-dimensional gel electrophoresis of 35S-labeled nuclear matrix proteins of EJ cells cultured on ECM derived from ras transfected fibroblast cells revealed expression of proteins in the molecular weight range of Mr 35,000–45,000 and isoelectric focusing pH range of 5.5 to 6.0. These proteins were not present in EJ cells cultured on ECM derived from parental nontransfected fibroblast cells.

We conclude that extracellular matrices derived from transformed stroma producing cells may influence the proliferation, genetic regulation, and maintenance of the overlying urothelial tumor cells. The mechanism by which the ECM may influence cellular behavior and phenotype may be in their ability to modulate the nuclear matrix proteins of the overlying cell.

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This work was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute (1R01CA51968), the New York Academy of Medicine, and the Edwin Beer Award.

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