The epithelial-mesenchymal transition mediator S100A4 maintains cancer-initiating cells in head and neck cancers

Jeng Fan Lo*, Cheng Chia Yu, Shih Hwa Chiou, Chih Yang Huang, Chia Ing Jan, Shu Chun Lin, Chung Ji Liu, Wen Yuan Hu, Yau Hua Yu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations

Abstract

Cancer-initiating cells (CIC) comprise a rare subpopulation of cells in tumors that are proposed to be responsible for tumor growth. Starting from CICs identified in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC), termed head and neck cancer-initiating cells (HN-CIC), we determined as a candidate stemnessmaintaining molecule for HN-CICs the proinflammatory mediator S100A4, which is also known to be an inducer of epithelial-mesenchymal transition. S100A4 knockdown in HN-CICs reduced their self-renewal capability and their stemness and tumorigenic properties, both in vitro and in vivo. Conversely, S100A4 overexpression in HNSCC cells enhanced their stem cell properties. Mechanistic investigations indicated that attenuation of endogenous S100A4 levels in HNSCC cells caused downregulation of Notch2 and PI3K (phosphoinositide 3-kinase)/pAKT along with upregulation of PTEN, consistent with biological findings. Immunohistochemical analysis of HNSCC clinical specimens showed that S100A4 expression was positively correlated with clinical grading, stemness markers, and poorer patient survival. Together, our findings reveal a crucial role for S100A4 signaling pathways in maintaining the stemness properties and tumorigenicity of HN-CICs. Furthermore, our findings suggest that targeting S100A4 signaling may offer a new targeted strategy for HNSCC treatment by eliminating HN-CICs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1912-1923
Number of pages12
JournalCancer Research
Volume71
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2011

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