National & Local Joint Engineering Research Center of Biodiagnosis and Biotherapy, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, China; Department of Oncology, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, Shaanxi, China; Key Laboratory of Environment and Disease-Related Gene, Ministry of Education, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, Shaanxi, China. Electronic address: [Email]
Psychological stress promotes tumor progression and has a large impact on the immune system, particularly the spleen. The spleen plays an important role in tumor behavior. However, the role and mechanism of the spleen in hepatocellular carcinoma progression induced by stress is unclear. Here, we showed that the spleen plays a critical role in hepatocellular carcinoma growth induced by restraint stress. Our results demonstrated that restraint stress promoted hepatocellular carcinoma growth, changed the spleen structure, and redistributed splenic myeloid cells to tumor tissues. Interestingly, we found that splenectomy could inhibit hepatocellular carcinoma growth and prevent increases in myeloid cells and macrophages in tumor tissues in stressed mice. Restraint stress significantly elevated the concentration of norepinephrine in the spleen, serum and tumor tissues. Meanwhile, propranolol, an inhibitor of β-adrenergic signaling, could inhibit hepatocellular carcinoma growth and prevent the redistribution of splenic myeloid cells induced by restraint stress, suggesting that restraint stress promotes hepatocellular carcinoma growth and redistributes splenic myeloid cells through β-adrenergic signaling. Mechanistic studies revealed that restraint stress upregulated the expressions of CXCL2/CXCL3 in tumor tissues and changed the expression of CXCR2 in myeloid cells. SB225002, an inhibitor of CXCR2, could prevent the recruitment of myeloid cells in tumor tissues and inhibit tumor growth in stressed mice. Together, these data indicate that chronic restraint stress promotes hepatocellular carcinoma growth by mobilizing splenic myeloid cells to tumor tissues via activating β-adrenergic signaling. The CXCR2-CXCL2/CXCL3 axis contributed to the recruitment of myeloid cells in tumor tissues induced by restraint stress.