A systematic analysis reveals heterogeneous changes in the endocytic activities of cancer cells

Sarah R. Elkin, Nawal Bendris, Carlos R. Reis, Yunyun Zhou, Yang Xie, Kenneth E. Huffman, John D. Minna, Sandra L. Schmid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Metastasis is a multistep process requiring cancer cell signaling, invasion, migration, survival, and proliferation. These processes require dynamic modulation of cell surface proteins by endocytosis. Given this functional connection, it has been suggested that endocytosis is dysregulated in cancer. To test this, we developed In-Cell ELISA assays to measure three different endocytic pathways: clathrin-mediated endocytosis, caveolae-mediated endocytosis, and clathrin-independent endocytosis and compared these activities using two different syngeneic models for normal and oncogene-transformed human lung epithelial cells. We found that all endocytic activities were reduced in the transformed versus normal counterparts. However, when we screened 29 independently isolated non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines to determine whether these changes were systematic, we observed significant heterogeneity. Nonetheless, using hierarchical clustering based on their combined endocytic properties, we identified two phenotypically distinct clusters of NSCLCs. One co-clustered with mutations in KRAS, a mesenchymal phenotype, increased invasion through collagen and decreased growth in soft agar, whereas the second was enriched in cells with an epithelial phenotype. Interestingly, the two clusters also differed significantly in clathrin-independent internalization and surface expression of CD44 and CD59. Taken together, our results suggest that endocytotic alterations in cancer cells that affect cell surface expression of critical molecules have a significant influence on cancer-relevant phenotypes, with potential implications for interventions to control cancer by modulating endocytic dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4640-4650
Number of pages11
JournalCancer research
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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