The role of the pro-inflammatory peptide, LL-37, and its pro-form, human cationic antimicrobial protein 18 (hCAP-18), in cancer development and progression is poorly understood. In damaged and inflamed tissue, LL-37 functions as a chemoattractant, mitogen and pro-angiogenic factor suggesting that the peptide may potentiate tumor progression. The aim of this study was to characterize the distribution of hCAP-18/LL-37 in normal and cancerous ovarian tissue and to examine the effects of LL-37 on ovarian cancer cells. Expression of hCAP-18/LL-37 was localized to immune and granulosa cells of normal ovarian tissue. By contrast, ovarian tumors displayed significantly higher levels of hCAP-18/LL-37 where expression was observed in tumor and stromal cells. Protein expression was statistically compared to the degree of immune cell infiltration and microvessel density in epithelial-derived ovarian tumors and a significant correlation was observed for both. It was demonstrated that ovarian tumor tissue lysates and ovarian cancer cell lines express hCAP-18/LL-37. Treatment of ovarian cancer cell lines with recombinant LL-37 stimulated proliferation, chemotaxis, invasion and matrix metalloproteinase expression. These data demonstrate for the first time that hCAP-18/LL-37 is significantly overexpressed in ovarian tumors and suggest LL-37 may contribute to ovarian tumorigenesis through direct stimulation of tumor cells, initiation of angiogenesis and recruitment of immune cells. These data provide further evidence of the existing relationship between pro-inflammatory molecules and ovarian cancer progression.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.