EGF receptor (EGFR) in tumor cells serves as a tumor promoter. However, information about EGFR activation in macrophages in regulating M2 polarization and tumor development is limited. This study aimed to investigate the effects of EGFR activation in macrophages on M2 polarization and development of gastrointestinal tumors. IL-4, a cytokine to elicit M2 polarization, stimulated release of an EGFR ligand, HB-EGF, and transactivation and down-regulation of EGFR in Raw 264.7 cells and peritoneal macrophages from WT mice. Knockdown of HB-EGF in macrophages inhibited EGFR transactivation by IL-4. IL-4-stimulated STAT6 activation, Arg1 and YM1 gene expression, and HB-EGF production were further enhanced by inhibition of EGFR activity in Raw 264.7 cells using an EGFR kinase inhibitor and in peritoneal macrophages from Egfr(wa5) mice with kinase inactive EGFR and by knockdown of EGFR in peritoneal macrophages from Egfr(fl/fl) LysM-Cre mice with myeloid cell-specific EGFR deletion. Chitin induced a higher level of M2 polarization in peritoneal macrophages in Egfr(fl/fl) LysM-Cre mice than that in Egfr(fl/fl) mice. Accordingly, IL-4-conditioned medium stimulated growth and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in gastric epithelial and colonic tumor cells, which were suppressed by that from Raw 264.7 cells with HB-EGF knockdown but promoted by that from Egfr(wa5) and Egfr(fl/fl) LysM-Cre peritoneal macrophages. Clinical assessment revealed that the number of macrophages with EGFR expression became less, indicating decreased inhibitory effects on M2 polarization, in late stage of human gastric cancers. Thus, IL-4-stimulated HB-EGF-dependent transactivation of EGFR in macrophages may mediate inhibitory feedback for M2 polarization and HB-EGF production, thereby inhibiting gastrointestinal tumor growth.
© 2016 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.