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HIV-associated epidemic Kaposi sarcoma (EpKS) remains one of the most prevalent cancers in sub-Saharan Africa despite the widespread uptake of anti-retroviral therapy and HIV-1 suppression. In an effort to define potential therapeutic targets against KS tumors, we analyzed previously published KS bulk tumor transcriptomics to identify cell surface biomarkers. In addition to upregulated gene expression (>6-fold) in the EpKS tumor microenvironment, biomarkers were selected for correlation with KSHV latency-associated nuclear antigen (LANA) expression. The cell surface glycoprotein genes identified were KDR, FLT4, ADAM12, UNC5A, ZP2, and OX40, as well as the endothelial lineage determinants Prox-1 and CD34. Each protein was evaluated for its expression and co-localization with KSHV LANA using multi-color immunofluorescence in KS tissues, KSHV-infected L1T2 cells, uninfected TIVE cells, and murine L1T2 tumor xenografts. Five surface glycoproteins (KDR, FLT4, UNC5A, ADAM12, and CD34) were associated with LANA-positive cells but were also detected in uninfected cells in the KS microenvironment. In vitro L1T2 cultures showed evidence of only FLT4, KDR, and UNC5A, whereas mouse L1T2 xenografts recapitulated human KS cell surface expression profiles, with the exception of CD34 and Prox-1. In KS tumors, most LANA-positive cells co-expressed markers of vascular as well as lymphatic endothelial lineages, suggesting KS-associated dedifferentiation to a more mesenchymal/progenitor phenotype.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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