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Am J Pathol. 2001 Jul;159(1):27-33.

Induction of c-Met proto-oncogene by Epstein-Barr virus latent membrane protein-1 and the correlation with cervical lymph node metastasis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

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Department of Otolaryngology, School of Medicine, Kanazawa University, Japan.


Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is distinctive in head and neck carcinomas for its close association with Epstein-Barr virus and its highly metastatic nature. Up-regulation of cell motility is essential for enhancement of metastatic potential. The expression of c-Met proto-oncogene, a high-affinity receptor for hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor, has been reported to correlate with metastatic ability of the tumor cell. We observed close association of c-Met expression with cervical lymph node metastasis (P = 0.0272) in 39 NPC specimens studied immunohistochemically. Epstein-Barr virus-encoding latent membrane protein-1 (LMP-1) is a primary oncogene and is suggested to enhance the metastatic property of NPC. Previously, we reported that LMP-1 enhanced the motility of Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) epithelial cells that was mediated by activation of Ets-1 transcription factor. Therefore, we examined the interrelationships of LMP-1, Ets-1, and c-Met. In immunohistochemical studies, the expression of LMP-1, Ets-1, and c-Met correlated significantly with each other in NPC (LMP-1 versus Ets-1, P < 0.0001; Ets-1 versus c-Met, P = 0.0012; LMP-1 versus Met, P = 0.0005). Transfection of LMP-1-expressing plasmid in MDCK cells induced c-Met protein expression. The c-Met protein was also induced by Ets-1 expression, and induction of c-Met by LMP-1 was suppressed by introducing a dominant-negative form of Ets-1 in LMP-1-expressing MDCK cells. These results suggest that LMP-1 induces c-Met through the activation of Ets-1, which may contribute in part to the highly metastatic potential of NPC.

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