Calprotectin (S100A8/A9), a heterodimeric protein complex of calcium-binding proteins S100A8 and S100A9, plays key roles in cell cycle regulation and inflammation, with potential functions in squamous cell differentiation. While upregulated in many cancers, S100A8/A9 is downregulated in squamous cell carcinomas of the cervix, esophagus, and the head and neck (HNSCC). We previously reported that ectopic S100A8/A9 expression inhibits cell cycle progression in carcinoma cells. Here, we show that declining expression of S100A8/A9 in patients with HNSCC is associated with increased DNA methylation, less differentiated tumors, and reduced overall survival. Upon ectopic over-expression of S100A8/A9, the cancer phenotype of S100A8/A9-negative carcinoma cells was suppressed in vitro and tumor growth in vivo was significantly decreased. MMP1, INHBA, FST, LAMC2, CCL3, SULF1, and SLC16A1 were significantly upregulated in HNSCC but were downregulated by S100A8/A9 expression. Our findings strongly suggest that downregulation of S100A8/A9 through epigenetic mechanisms may contribute to increased proliferation, malignant transformation, and disease progression in HNSCC.
- Cell cycle