Background: Stem cell antigen-1 (Sca-1 or Ly6A) is a glycosyl phostidylinositol (GPI)-anchored cell surface protein associated with both stem and progenitor activity, as well as tumor initiating-potential. However, at present the functional role for Sca-1 is poorly defined.
Methodology/principal findings: To investigate the role of Sca-1 in mammary tumorigenesis, we used a mammary cell line derived from a MMTV-Wnt1 mouse mammary tumor that expresses high levels of endogenous Sca-1. Using shRNA knockdown, we demonstrate that Sca-1 expression controls cell proliferation during early tumor progression in mice. Functional limiting dilution transplantations into recipient mice demonstrate that repression of Sca-1 increases the population of tumor propagating cells. In scratch monolayer assays, Sca-1 enhances cell migration. In addition, knockdown of Sca-1 was shown to affect cell adhesion to a number of different extracellular matrix components. Microarray analysis indicates that repression of Sca-1 leads to changes in expression of genes involved in proliferation, cell migration, immune response and cell organization.
Conclusions/significance: Sca-1 exerts marked effects on cellular activity and tumorgenicity both in vitro and in vivo. A better understanding of Sca-1 function may provide insight into the broader role of GPI-anchored cell surface proteins in cancer.