Plasma membrane proteomics of tumor spheres identify CD166 as a novel marker for cancer stem-like cells in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Ming Yan, Xihu Yang, Lizhen Wang, David Clark, Hui Zuo, Dongxia Ye, Wantao Chen, Ping Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Patients with advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) have a poor prognosis with the currently available therapy, and tumor recurrence is frequently observed. The discovery of specific membraneassociated cancer stem cell (CSC) markers is crucial for the development of novel therapeutic strategies to target these CSCs. To address this issue, we established sphere cultures to enrich CSCs and used them for plasma membrane proteomics to identify specific membrane signatures of the HNSCC spheres. Of a dataset that included a total of 376 identified proteins, 200 were bona fide membrane proteins. Among them, 123 proteins were at least 1.5-fold up- or down-regulated in the spheres relative to the adherent cultures. These proteins included cell adhesion molecules, receptors, and transporter proteins. Some of them play key roles in wnt, integrin, and TGFβ signaling pathways. When we compared our dataset with two published hESC membrane protein signatures, we found 18 proteins common to all three of the databases. CD166 and CD44 were two such proteins. Interestingly, the expression of CD166, rather than that of the wellestablished HNSCC CSC marker CD44, was significantly related to the malignant behavior of HNSCC. Relative to CD166low HNSCC cells, CD166high HNSCC cells had a greater sphere-formation ability in vitro and tumor formation ability in vivo. Patients whose tumors expressed high levels of CD166 had a significantly poorer clinical outcome than those whose tumors expressed low levels of CD166 (cohort 1: 96 cases, p0.040), whereas the level of CD44 expression had only a marginal influence on the clinical outcome of patients with HNSCC (p 0.078). The level of CD166 expression in HNSCC tumors was also associated with the tumor recurrence rate (cohort 2: 104 cases, p 0.016). This study demonstrates that CD166 is a valuable cell surface marker for the enrichment of HNSCC stem cells and that plasma membrane proteomics is a promising biological tool for investigating the membrane proteins of CSCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3271-3284
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular and Cellular Proteomics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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