CRABP1 (cellular retinoic acid binding protein 1) belongs to the family of fatty acid binding proteins. Retinoic acid binding is the only known functional activity of this protein. The role of CRABP1 in human carcinogenesis remains poorly understood. Here, for the first time we demonstrated pro-metastatic and pro-tumorigenic activity of CRABP1 in mesenchymal tumors. Further functional analysis revealed that the pro-tumorigenic effect of CRABP1 does not depend on retinoic acid binding activity. These results suggest that CRABP1 could have an alternative intracellular functional activity that contributes to the high malignancy of transformed mesenchymal cells. Microarray analysis detected CRABP1-mediated alterations in the expression of about 100 genes, including those encoding key regulatory proteins. CRABP1 is ubiquitously expressed in monophasic synovial sarcomas, while in biphasic synovial sarcomas it is expressed uniquely by the spindle cells of the aggressive mesenchymal component. High level of CRABP1 expression is associated with lymph node metastasis and poor differentiation/high grade of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNETs). Presented data suggest CRABP1 as a promising biomarker of pNETs' clinical behavior. Our results give the first evidence of pro-tumorigenic and pro-metastatic activity of CRABP1 in mesenchymal and neuroendocrine tumors.
Keywords: CRABP1; metastasis; pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors; synovial sarcomas; tumorigenicity.