CD99 at the crossroads of physiology and pathology

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CD99 is a cell surface protein with unique features and only partly defined mechanisms of action. This molecule is involved in crucial biological processes, including cell adhesion, migration, death, differentiation and diapedesis, and it influences processes associated with inflammation, immune responses and cancer. CD99 is frequently overexpressed in many types of tumors, particularly pediatric tumors including Ewing sarcoma and specific subtypes of leukemia. Engagement of CD99 induces the death of malignant cells through non-conventional mechanisms. In Ewing sarcoma, triggering of CD99 by specific monoclonal antibodies activates hyperstimulation of micropinocytosis and leads to cancer cells killing through a caspase-independent, non-apoptotic pathway resembling methuosis. This process is characterized by extreme accumulation of vacuoles in the cytoplasmic space, which compromises cell viability, requires the activation of RAS-Rac1 downstream signaling and appears to be rather specific for tumor cells. In addition, anti-CD99 monoclonal antibodies exhibit antitumor activities in xenografts in the absence of immune effector cells or complement proteins. Overall, these data establish CD99 as a new opportunity to treat patients with high expression of CD99, particularly those that are resistant to canonical apoptosis-inducing agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-68
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cell Communication and Signaling
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • CD99
  • Cell differentiation
  • Cell migration
  • Cellular signaling
  • Metastasis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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