• colorectal cancer;
  • cathepsin L;
  • disease progression;
  • survival


Previous in vitro studies have identified a nuclear isoform of Cathepsin L. The aim of this study was to examine if nuclear Cathepsin L exists in vivo and examine its association with clinical, pathological and patient outcome data. Cellular localization (nuclear and cytoplasmic) and expression levels v of Cathespin L in 186 colorectal cancer cases using immunohistochemistry. The molecular weight and activity of nuclear and cytoplasmic Cathepsin L in vivo and in vitro were assessed by Western blotting and ELISA, respectively. Epithelial nuclear staining percentage (p = 0.04) and intensity (p = 0.006) increased with advancing tumor stage, whereas stromal cytoplasmic staining decreased (p = 0.02). Using multivariate statistical analysis, survival was inversely associated with staining intensity in the epithelial cytoplasm (p = 0.01) and stromal nuclei (p = 0.007). In different colorectal cell lines and in vivo tumors, pro- and active Cathepsin L isoforms were present in both the cytoplasm and nuclear samples, with pro-Cathepsin L at 50 kDa and active Cathepsin L at 25 kDa. Purified nuclear and cytoplasmic fractions from cell lines and tumors showed active Cathepsin L activity. The identification of nuclear Cathepsin L may play an important prognostic role in colorectal disease progression and patient outcome. Moreover, these findings suggest that altering active nuclear Cathepsin L may significantly influence disease progression. © 2009 UICC