Elevated tumor expression of the cell surface GPI-linked CD24 protein signals poor patient prognosis in many tumor types. However, some cancer cells selected to be negative for surface CD24 (surCD24-) still retain aggressive phenotypes in vitro and in vivo. Here, we resolve this apparent paradox with the discovery of biologically active, nuclear CD24 (nucCD24) and finding that its levels are unchanged in surCD24- cells. Using the complementary techniques of biochemical cellular fractionation and immunofluorescence, we demonstrate a signal for CD24 in the nucleus in cells from various histologic types of cancer. Nuclear-specific expression of CD24 (NLS-CD24) increased anchorage-independent growth in vitro and tumor formation in vivo. Immunohistochemistry of patient tumor samples revealed the presence of nucCD24, whose signal intensity correlated positively with the presence of metastatic disease. Analysis of gene expression between cells expressing CD24 and NLS-CD24 revealed a unique nucCD24 transcriptional signature. The median score derived from this signature was able to stratify overall survival in four patient datasets from bladder cancer and five patient datasets from colorectal cancer. Patients with high scores (more nucCD24-like) had reduced survival. These findings define a novel and functionally important intracellular location of CD24; they explain why surCD24-cells can remain aggressive, and they highlight the need to consider nucCD24 in both fundamental research and therapeutic development.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research