Mendez O, Peg V, Salvans C, Pujals M, Fernandez Y, Abasolo I, Perez J, Matres A, Valeri M, Gregori J, Villarreal L, Schwartz S, Ramon Y Cajal S, Tabernero J, Cortes J, Arribas J, Villanueva J

Clin Cancer Res. 2018 Aug 22. pii: 1078-0432.CCR-18-0517. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-18-0517. PMID: 30135148



The study of the cancer secretome suggests that a fraction of the intracellular proteome could play unanticipated roles in the extracellular space during tumorigenesis. A project aimed at investigating the invasive secretome led us to study the alternative extracellular function of the nuclear protein high mobility group A1 (HMGA1) in breast cancer invasion and metastasis.


Antibodies against HMGA1 were tested in signalling, adhesion, migration, invasion and metastasis assays using breast cancer cell lines and xenograft models. Fluorescence microscopy was used to determine the subcellular localization of HMGA1 in cell lines, xenograft and patient-derived xenograft models. A cohort of triplenegative breast cancer (TNBC) patients was used to study the correlation between subcellular localization of HMGA1 and the incidence of metastasis.


Our data shows that treatment of invasive cells with HMGA1-blocking antibodies in the extracellular space impairs their migration and invasion abilities. We also prove that extracellular HMGA1 (eHMGA1) becomes a ligand for the Advanced glycosylation end product-specific receptor (RAGE), inducing pERK signalling and increasing migration and invasion. Using the cytoplasmic localization of HMGA1 as a surrogate marker of secretion, we showed that eHMGA1 correlates with the incidence of metastasis in a cohort of TNBC patients. Furthermore, we show that HMGA1 is enriched in the cytoplasm of tumor cells at the invasive front of primary tumors and in metastatic lesions in xenograft models.


Our results strongly suggest that eHMGA1 could become a novel drug target in metastatic TNBC, and a biomarker predicting the onset of distant metastasis.