The mesothelium, covered by a continuous monolayer of mesothelial cells, is the first protective barrier against metastatic ovarian cancer. However, mesothelial cells release tumor-promoting factors that accelerate the process of peritoneal metastasis. We identified cancer-associated mesothelial cells (CAMs) that had tumor-promoting potential. Here, we found that plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) induced the formation of CAMs, after which CAMs increasingly secreted the oncogenic factors interleukin-8 (IL-8) and C-X-C motif chemokine ligand 5 (CXCL5), further promoting the metastasis of ovarian cancer cells in a feedback loop. After the formation of CAMs, PAI-1 activated the nuclear factor kappa B (NFκB) pathway in the CAMs, thus transcriptionally upregulating the expression of the downstream NFκB targets IL-8 and CXCL5. Moreover, PAI-1 correlated with peritoneal metastasis in ovarian cancer patients and indicated a poor prognosis. In both ex vivo and in vivo models, after PAI-1 expression was knocked down, the metastasis of ovarian cancer cells decreased significantly. Therefore, targeting PAI-1 may provide a potential target for future therapeutics to prevent the formation of CAMs and alleviate peritoneal metastasis in ovarian cancer patients.
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