Research Papers:

Anterior gradient protein 2 expression in high grade head and neck squamous cell carcinoma correlated with cancer stem cell and epithelial mesenchymal transition

Si-Rui Ma, Wei-Ming Wang, Cong-Fa Huang, Wen-Feng Zhang and Zhi-Jun Sun _

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:8807-8821. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.3556

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Si-Rui Ma1, Wei-Ming Wang1, Cong-Fa Huang1, Wen-Feng Zhang1,2 and Zhi-Jun Sun1,2

1 The State Key Laboratory Breeding Base of Basic Science of Stomatology & Key Laboratory of Oral Biomedicine Ministry of Education, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China

2 Department of Oral Maxillofacial-Head Neck Oncology, School and Hospital of Stomatology, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China

Correspondence to:

Zhi-Jun Sun, email:

Keywords: AGR2, HNSCC, cancer stemloid cell, epithelial mesenchymal transition

Received: December 11, 2014 Accepted: February 10, 2015 Published: March 12, 2015


Anterior gradient protein 2 (AGR2) is a novel biomarker with potential oncogenic role. We sought to investigate the diagnostic and prognostic role of AGR2 on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) with an emphasis on its correlation of cancer stemloid cells (CSC) and epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT). We found that AGR2 protein levels were higher in HNSCC than in normal oral mucosa. High levels of AGR2 were associated with the T category, pathological grade and lymph node metastasis of HNSCC. Expression of AGR2 increased in recurring HNSCC after radiotherapy and in post cisplatin-based chemotherapeutic tissues. In HNSCC cell lines, knock-down of AGR2 induced apoptosis, reduced sphere formation, and down-regulated Survivin, Cyclin D1, Bcl2, Bcl2l1, Slug, Snail, Nanog and Oct4. In addition, over-expressed AGR2 in transgenic mice with spontaneous HNSCC was associated with lost function of Tgfbr1 and/ or lost function of Pten. In vitro knockdown TGFBR1 in HNSCC cell lines increased AGR2 expression. These results suggest that AGR2 is involved in EMT and self-renewal of CSC and may present a potential therapeutic target (oncotarget) for HNSCC.

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