Inflammation increases NOTCH1 activity via MMP9 and is counteracted by Eicosapentaenoic Acid-free fatty acid in colon cancer cells

Chiara Fazio, Giulia Piazzi, Paola Vitaglione, Vincenzo Fogliano, Alessandra Munarini, Anna Prossomariti, Maddalena Milazzo, Leonarda D'Angelo, Manuela Napolitano, Pasquale Chieco, Andrea Belluzzi, Franco Bazzoli, Luigi Ricciardiello*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Aberrant NOTCH1 signalling is critically involved in multiple models of colorectal cancer (CRC) and a prominent role of NOTCH1 activity during inflammation has emerged. Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition (EMT), a crucial event promoting malignant transformation, is regulated by inflammation and Metalloproteinase-9 (MMP9) plays an important role in this process. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, was shown to prevent colonic tumors in different settings. We recently found that an extra-pure formulation of EPA as Free Fatty Acid (EPA-FFA) protects from colon cancer development in a mouse model of Colitis-Associated Cancer (CAC) through modulation of NOTCH1 signalling. In this study, we exposed colon cancer cells to an inflammatory stimulus represented by a cytokine-enriched Conditioned Medium (CM), obtained from THP1-differentiated macrophages. We found, for the first time, that CM strongly up-regulated NOTCH1 signalling and EMT markers, leading to increased invasiveness. Importantly, NOTCH1 signalling was dependent on MMP9 activity, upon CM exposure. We show that a non-cytotoxic pre-treatment with EPA-FFA antagonizes the effect of inflammation on NOTCH1 signalling, with reduction of MMP9 activity and invasiveness. In conclusion, our data suggest that, in CRC cells, inflammation induces NOTCH1 activity through MMP9 up-regulation and that this mechanism can be counteracted by EPA-FFA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20670
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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