Tumor progression and metastasis are complex processes involving intricate interplay among multiple gene products. Astrocyte Elevated Gene (AEG)-1 was cloned as an HIV-1- and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α)-inducible transcript in primary human fetal astrocytes by a rapid subtraction hybridization approach. AEG-1 downregulates the expression of the glutamate transporter EAAT2, thus it is implicated in glutamate-induced excitotoxic damage to neurons as evident in HIV-associated neurodegeneration. Interestingly, AEG-1 expression is elevated in subsets of breast cancer, glioblastoma multiforme and melanoma cells and AEG-1 cooperates with Ha-ras to augment the transformed phenotype of normal immortal cells. Moreover, AEG-1 is overexpressed in >95% of human malignant glioma samples when compared with normal human brain. Overexpression of AEG-1 increases and siRNA inhibition of AEG-1 decreases migration and invasion of human glioma cells, respectively. AEG-1 contains a lung-homing domain facilitating breast tumor metastasis to lungs. These findings indicate that AEG-1 might play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis, progression and metastasis of diverse cancers. Our recent observations indicate that AEG-1 exerts its effects by activating the NF-κB pathway and AEG-1 is a downstream target of Ha-ras and plays an important role in Ha-ras-mediated tumorigenesis. These provocative findings are intensifying interest in AEG-1 as a crucial regulator of tumor progression and metastasis and as a potential mediator of neurodegeneration. In this review, we discuss the cloning, structure and function(s) of AEG-1 and provide recent insights into the diverse actions and intriguing properties of this molecule.
Keywords: AEG-1, Progression, Metastasis, Ha-ras oncogene, Glutamate excitotoxicity, AEG-1 promoter