Background: The L1 cell adhesion molecule (L1CAM) is potentially involved in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). EMT marker expression is of prognostic significance in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The relevance of L1CAM for NSCLC is unclear. We investigated the protein expression of L1CAM in a cohort of NSCLC patients. L1CAM protein expression was correlated with clinico-pathological parameters including survival and markers of epithelial-mesenchymal transition.
Results: L1CAM protein expression was found in 25% of squamous cell carcinomas and 24% of adenocarcinomas and correlated with blood vessel invasion and metastasis (p < 0.05). L1CAM was an independent predictor of survival in a multivariate analysis including pT, pN, and pM category, and tumor differentiation grade. L1CAM expression positively correlated with vimentin, beta-catenin, and slug, but inversely with E-cadherin (all p-values < 0.05). E-cadherin expression was higher in the tumor center than in the tumor periphery, whereas L1CAM and vimentin were expressed at the tumor-stroma interface. In L1CAM-negative A549 cells the L1CAM expression was upregulated and matrigel invasion was increased after stimulation with TGF-beta1. In L1CAM-positive SK-LU-1 and SK-LC-LL cells matrigel invasion was decreased after L1CAM siRNA knockdown.
Conclusions: A subset of NSCLCs with vessel tropism and increased metastasis aberrantly expresses L1CAM. L1CAM is a novel prognostic marker for NSCLCs that is upregulated by EMT induction and appears to be instrumental for enhanced cell invasion.