The REG and PRO cell clones were obtained from a colon adenocarcinoma induced in a BDIX rat by 1,2-dimethylhydrazine. When injected s.c. into syngeneic hosts, REG cells induce tumors that regress in less than 3 weeks, whereas PRO cells, like parental cells, induce progressive tumors. Here, we show that compared to PRO cells, REG cells are more sensitive to cell death induced by anticancer drugs. The small heat shock protein (HSP) 27 is not expressed or inducible in REG clones, whereas it is abundantly expressed and inducible by heat shock in PRO clones. The expression of HSP27 in REG cells increases their resistance to apoptosis in vitro and dramatically enhances their tumorigenicity when injected s.c. into syngeneic rats. HSP27 expression in REG cells both increases tumor size and delays tumor regression. This increased tumorigenicity is associated with a substantial decrease of in vivo tumor cell apoptosis. We conclude that HSP27 expression in malignant cells increases their tumorigenicity in syngeneic animals. In combination with the role of HSP27 in tumor cell resistance to cytotoxic agents, its contribution to tumorigenicity makes this protein a potential target for antitumoral therapy.

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Supported by Grant 5405 from the Association pour la Recherche Contre le Cancer, by the Comité Départementaux de la Ligue Nationale Contre le Cancer (Bourgogne, Nièvre), and by the Conseil Régional de Bourgogne. E. S. and P. M. contributed equally to this work.

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