JOURNAL ARTICLE

Epstein-Barr virus-encoded LMP2A induces an epithelial-mesenchymal transition and increases the number of side population stem-like cancer cells in nasopharyngeal carcinoma

Qing-Li Kong, Li-Juan Hu, Jing-Yan Cao, Yi-Jun Huang, Li-Hua Xu, Yi Liang, Dan Xiong, Su Guan, Bao-Hong Guo, Hai-Qiang Mai, Qiu-Yan Chen, Xing Zhang, Man-Zhi Li, Jian-Yong Shao, Chao-Nan Qian, Yun-Fei Xia, Li-Bing Song, Yi-Xin Zeng, Mu-Sheng Zeng
PLoS Pathogens 2010 June 3, 6 (6): e1000940
20532215
It has been recently reported that a side population of cells in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) displayed characteristics of stem-like cancer cells. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the modulation of such stem-like cell populations in NPC remain unclear. Epstein-Barr virus was the first identified human tumor virus to be associated with various malignancies, most notably NPC. LMP2A, the Epstein-Barr virus encoded latent protein, has been reported to play roles in oncogenic processes. We report by immunostaining in our current study that LMP2A is overexpressed in 57.6% of the nasopharyngeal carcinoma tumors sampled and is mainly localized at the tumor invasive front. We found also in NPC cells that the exogenous expression of LMP2A greatly increases their invasive/migratory ability, induces epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)-like cellular marker alterations, and stimulates stem cell side populations and the expression of stem cell markers. In addition, LMP2A enhances the transforming ability of cancer cells in both colony formation and soft agar assays, as well as the self-renewal ability of stem-like cancer cells in a spherical culture assay. Additionally, LMP2A increases the number of cancer initiating cells in a xenograft tumor formation assay. More importantly, the endogenous expression of LMP2A positively correlates with the expression of ABCG2 in NPC samples. Finally, we demonstrate that Akt inhibitor (V) greatly decreases the size of the stem cell side populations in LMP2A-expressing cells. Taken together, our data indicate that LMP2A induces EMT and stem-like cell self-renewal in NPC, suggesting a novel mechanism by which Epstein-Barr virus induces the initiation, metastasis and recurrence of NPC.

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