Chitinase 3-like-1 expression in colonic epithelial cells as a potentially novel marker for colitis-associated neoplasia

Am J Pathol. 2011 Sep;179(3):1494-503. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2011.05.038. Epub 2011 Jul 16.


Chitinase 3-like-1 (CHI3L1/YKL-40) is a protein secreted from restricted cell types including colonic epithelial cells (CECs) and macrophages. CHI3L1 is an inflammation-associated molecule, and its expression is enhanced in persons with colitis and colon cancer. The biological function of CHI3L1 on CECs is unclear. In this study, we investigated the role of CHI3L1 on CECs during the development of colitis-associated neoplasia. We analyzed colonic samples obtained from healthy persons and from persons with ulcerative colitis with or without premalignant or malignant changes. DNA microarray and RT-PCR analyses significantly increased CHI3L1 expression in non-dysplastic mucosa from patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who had dysplasia/adenocarcinoma compared with that in healthy persons and in patients with IBD who did not have dysplasia. As determined by IHC, CHI3L1 was expressed in specific cell types in the crypts of colonic biopsies obtained from patients with ulcerative colitis who have remote dysplasia. Purified CHI3L1 efficiently activated the NF-κB signaling pathway and enhanced the secretion of IL-8 and TNF-α in SW480 human colon cancer cells. In addition, colon cancer cell proliferation and migration were significantly promoted in response to CHI3L1 in these cells. In summary, CHI3L1 may contribute to the proliferation, migration, and neoplastic progression of CECs under inflammatory conditions and could be a useful biomarker for neoplastic changes in patients with IBD.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chitinase-3-Like Protein 1
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / diagnosis*
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-8 / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Lectins / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Precancerous Conditions / diagnosis
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Adipokines
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CHI3L1 protein, human
  • Chitinase-3-Like Protein 1
  • Interleukin-8
  • Lectins
  • NF-kappa B
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha