Ovarian cancers overexpress the antimicrobial protein hCAP-18 and its derivative LL-37 increases ovarian cancer cell proliferation and invasion

Int J Cancer. 2008 Mar 1;122(5):1030-9. doi: 10.1002/ijc.23186.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / biosynthesis*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cathelicidins
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Disease Progression
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tissue Array Analysis
  • Up-Regulation


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Cathelicidins