Ki-67 expression is correlated with cell proliferation and is a prognostic marker for various cancers; however, its function is unknown. Here we demonstrate that genetic disruption of Ki-67 in human epithelial breast and colon cancer cells depletes the cancer stem cell niche. Ki-67 null cells had a proliferative disadvantage compared to wildtype controls in colony formation assays and displayed increased sensitivity to various chemotherapies. Ki-67 null cancer cells showed decreased and delayed tumor formation in xenograft assays, which was associated with a reduction in cancer stem cell markers. Immunohistochemical analyses of human breast cancers revealed that Ki-67 expression is maintained at equivalent or greater levels in metastatic sites of disease compared to matched primary tumors, suggesting that maintenance of Ki-67 expression is associated with metastatic/clonogenic potential. These results elucidate Ki-67's role in maintaining the cancer stem cell niche, which has potential diagnostic and therapeutic implications for human malignancies.
- Cancer stem cells
ASJC Scopus subject areas