Intracellular claudin-1 at the invasive front of tongue squamous cell carcinoma is associated with lymph node metastasis

Cancer Sci. 2020 Feb;111(2):700-712. doi: 10.1111/cas.14249. Epub 2019 Dec 20.


Claudins are the major component of tight junctions, which form a primary barrier to paracellular diffusion and maintain cell polarity in normal epithelia and endothelia. In cancer cells, claudins play additional roles besides serving as components of the tight junctions, and participate in anoikis or invasion. Among the claudin family proteins, claudin-1 has the most promising potential, both diagnostically and prognostically, in many types of cancers, including oral, gastric, liver, and colon cancers. However, conflicting results have been reported in relation to the degree of claudin-1 expression and the prognosis, suggesting that the expression level of claudin-1 alone is not sufficient to analyze the relationship between claudin-1 and cancer progression. As endocytic trafficking of claudin-1 has been reported in several epithelial cell types in vitro, we aimed to determine whether intracellular localization of claudin-1 is the missing aspect between claudin-1 and cancer. We investigated the expression of claudin-1 in 83 tongue squamous cell carcinoma (TSCC) pathological specimens. Although the expression level of claudin-1 based on immunohistochemistry was not associated with TSCC progression, within the high claudin-1 expression group, the incidence of intracellular localization of claudin-1 was correlated with cervical lymph node metastasis. In an in vitro experiment, claudin-1 was constitutively internalized in TSCC-derived cells. Motility of TSCC-derived cells was increased by deficiency of claudin-1, suggesting that the decrease in cell-surface claudin-1 promoted the cell migration. Therefore, intracellular localization of claudin-1 at the invasion front may represent a promising diagnostic marker of TSCC.

Keywords: claudin-1; endocytosis; invasion front; metastasis; tongue squamous cell carcinoma.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Claudin-1 / metabolism*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Tongue Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Tongue Neoplasms / pathology
  • Transport Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CLDN1 protein, human
  • Claudin-1