The tumor blood vessel endothelium forms a barrier that must be crossed by circulating immune cells in order for them to reach and kill cancer cells. Epidermal growth factor‑like domain 7 (Egfl7) represses this immune infiltration by lowering the expression levels of leukocyte adhesion receptors on the surface of endothelial cells. However, the protein domains involved in these properties are not completely understood. Egfl7 is structurally composed of the predicted EMI‑, EGF‑ and C‑terminal domains. The present study aimed to investigate the roles of these different domains in tumor development by designing retroviruses coding for deletion mutants and then infecting 4T1 breast cancer cell populations, which consequently overexpressed the variants. By performing in vitro soft‑agar assays, it was found that Egfl7 and its deletion variants did not affect cell proliferation or anchorage‑independent growth. When 4T1 cells expressing either the wild‑type Egfl7 protein or Egfl7 domain variants were implanted in mice, Egfl7 expression markedly promoted tumor development and deletion of the EGF repeats decreased the tumor growth rate. By contrast, deleting any other domain displayed no significant effect on tumor development. The overexpression of Egfl7 also decreased T cell and natural killer cell infiltration in tumors, as determined by immunofluorescence staining of tumor sections, whereas deletion of the EGF repeats inhibited this effect. Reverse transcription‑quantitative PCR analysis of the mechanisms involved revealed that deleting the EGF repeats partially restored the expression levels of vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 and E‑selectin, which were suppressed by overexpression of Egfl7 in endothelial cells in vitro. This resulted in a higher number of lymphocytes bound to HUVEC expressing Egfl7‑ΔEGF compared with HUVEC expressing wild‑type Egfl7, as assessed by fluorescent‑THP‑1 adhesion assays onto endothelial cells. Overall, the present study demonstrated that the EGF repeats may participate in the protumoral and anti‑inflammatory effects of Egfl7.
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