Human ovarian cancer is diagnosed in the late, metastatic stages but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. We report a surprising functional link between CD151-α3β1 integrin complexes and the malignancy of serous-type ovarian cancer. Analyses of clinical specimens indicate that CD151 expression is significantly reduced or diminished in 90% of metastatic lesions, while it remains detectable in 58% of primary tumors. These observations suggest a putative tumor-suppressing role of CD151 in ovarian cancer. Indeed, our analyses show that knocking down CD151 or α3 integrin enhances tumor cell proliferation, growth and ascites production in nude mice. These changes are accompanied by impaired cell-cell contacts and aberrant expression of E-cadherin, Mucin 5AC and fibronectin, largely reminiscent of an epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT)-like change. Importantly, Slug, a master regulator of EMT, is markedly elevated. Knocking down Slug partially restores CD151-α3β1 integrin complex-dependent suppression of cell proliferation. Moreover, disruption of these adhesion protein complexes is accompanied by a concomitant activation of canonical Wnt signaling, including elevated levels of β-catenin and Axin-2 as well as resistance to the inhibition in β-catenin-dependent transcriptional complexes. Together, our study demonstrates that CD151-α3β1 integrin complexes regulate ovarian tumor growth by repressing Slug-mediated EMT and Wnt signaling.

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Published in Oncotarget, v. 5, no. 23, p. 12203-12217.

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This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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This study was supported in part through DOD Ovarian Cancer Research Program W81XWH-08-1-0120, Franchi Investigator Award/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, S. G. Komen for the Cure career catalyst award, NIH COBRE/pilot project fund and A pilot project grant from American Cancer Society #IRG 85-001-25 to X.H. Yang.