Background: CD26 (dipeptidyl peptidase IV, DPPIV) is a 110 kDa surface glycoprotein expressed in most normal tissues, and is a potential novel therapeutic target for selected cancers. Our work evaluates the mechanism involved in confluence-dependent CD26 expression in colon cancer.
Methods: Colon adenocarcinoma cells were grown to confluence, and expression of CD26 and transcription factors implicated in its regulation was confirmed by immunofluorescence and Western blotting. Real-time PCR was also performed to evaluate CD26 upregulation at the transcriptional level. The influence of c-Myc on CD26 expression during different growth conditions was further evaluated following transient transfection of a c-Myc-expressing plasmid and a c-Myc specific siRNA.
Results: We found that the colon cancer cell lines HCT-116 and HCT-15 exhibited a confluence-dependent increase in CD26 mRNA and protein, associated with decreased expression of c-Myc, increased USF-1 and Cdx 2 levels, and unchanged HNF-1α expression. Meanwhile, ectopic expression of c-Myc in both cell lines led to decreased CD26 expression. In contrast, transfection of a siRNA targeted to Cdx2 resulted in decreased CD26 level. Importantly, culturing of cells in serum-depleted media, but not acidic conditions, upregulated CD26. While HIF-1α level also increased when cells were cultured in serum-depleted media, its expression was required but not sufficient for CD26 upregulation.
Conclusions: CD26 mRNA and protein levels increase in a confluence-dependent manner in colon carcinoma cell lines, with c-Myc acting as a repressor and Cdx2 acting as an enhancer of CD26 expression. The enhanced expression of CD26 in serum-depleted media and a requirement for HIF-1α suggest a role for nutrients or growth factors in the regulation of CD26 protein expression.