Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays a pivotal role in cancer invasion and metastasis, and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β signaling is a potent inducer of EMT. However, the clinical significance of the correlation between EMT marker expression and TGF-β signaling in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients remains unknown. In this study, immunohistochemistry was used to analyze the expression of EMT markers and phospho-Smad2 nuclear positivity, and their association with clinicopathological features in 150 HCC patients. E-cadherinhigh/vimentinlow and E-cadherinlow/vimentinhigh expression profiles were determined in 55 (36.7%) and 21 (14.0%) patients, respectively. The E-cadherinlow/vimentinhigh expression profile was significantly correlated with poor tumor differentiation (P<0.001), vascular invasion (P=0.007) and extrahepatic recurrence following curative surgery (P=0.026). Furthermore, the E-cadherinlow/vimentinhigh expression profile was significantly correlated with shorter disease-free survival compared to E-cadherinhigh/vimentinlow (P=0.002). Forty-one patients (27.3%) were demonstrated to have high phospho-Smad2 nuclear positivity, which was significantly correlated with the E-cadherinlow/vimentinhigh expression profile (P<0.001). In conclusion, this study suggests that EMT expression profiles are useful prognostic markers for disease-free survival in HCC patients, and that the E-cadherinlow/vimentinhigh expression profile is closely associated with high-grade malignant behavior such as tumoral vascular invasion and metastasis in HCC. Additionally, TGF-β-mediated EMT may play an important role in the aggressiveness of HCC.
TGF-β; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; hepatocellular carcinoma; Smad2
Intrahepatic and extrahepatic metastases are common findings in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2) expression is frequently induced in HCC, and serum IGF2 levels correlate with the presence of extrahepatic metastases. Yet, the role of IGF-induced signaling in the dissemination of HCC remains unclear. We have previously observed elevated IGF2 levels in tumors with metastatic potential in an HCC mouse model. Here, we demonstrate that inhibition of IGF2, or its receptor IGF1R, impairs the migration and invasion activities of murine HCC cells. Furthermore, inhibition of IGF1R also impairs the ability of HCC cells to colonize the lungs after introduction into the circulation through the tail vein but does not impair subcutaneous tumor growth. Collectively, these findings suggest that IGF1R-mediated signaling plays a causative role in tumor dissemination but is not required for tumor growth per se. Although previous studies indicate that IGF ligands can signal through IGF1R/insulin receptor (IR) heterodimers, and IR-A homodimers, we demonstrate that the IR is not required for invasion and metastasis by HCC cells. Finally, we identify matrix metalloproteinase 2 as a mediator of the invasive phenotype downstream of IGF1R-induced signaling. Thus, our studies demonstrate the importance of IGF2-induced signaling in the dissemination of HCC cells.
This article reviews the evidence that ties the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) to the natural immune pro-inflammatory response to chronic liver disease, with a focus on the role of Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling as the mechanism of liver stem cell/progenitor transformation to HCC. Two exemplary models of this phenomenon are reviewed in detail. One model applies chronic ethanol/lipopolysaccharide feeding to the activated TLR4 signaling pathway. The other applies chronic feeding of a carcinogenic drug, in which TLR2 and 4 signaling pathways are activated. In the drug-induced model, two major methyl donors, S-adenosylmethionine and betaine, prevent the upregulation of the TLR signaling pathways and abrogate the stem cell/progenitor proliferation response when fed with the carcinogenic drug. This observation supports a nutritional approach to liver cancer prevention and treatment. The observation that upregulation of the TLR signaling pathways leads to liver tumor formation gives evidence to the popular concept that the chronic pro-inflammatory response is an important mechanism of liver oncogenesis. It provides a nutritional approach, which could prevent HCC from developing in many chronic liver diseases.
Toll-like receptor; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Methyl donors, Epigenetic processes; Inflammation; Alcohol; Drug toxicity; Lipopolysaccharides
Krüppel-like factor 4 (KLF4) is a zinc-finger transcription factor that plays an important role in differentiation and pathogenesis. KLF4 has been suggested to act as an oncogene or tumor suppressor in different tumor types. However, the role of KLF4 in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that forced expression of Klf4 in murine HCC cell lines reduced anchorage-independent growth in soft agar as well as cell migration and invasion activities in vitro. Ectopic Klf4 expression impaired subcutaneous tumor growth and lung colonization in vivo. By contrast, Klf4 knockdown enhanced HCC cell migration. Interestingly, ectopic expression of Klf4 changed the morphology of murine HCC cells to a more epithelial phenotype. Associated with this, we found that expression of Slug, a critical epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT)-related transcription factor, was significantly down-regulated in Klf4-expressing cells. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and luciferase reporter assays showed that Klf4 is able to bind and repress the activity of the Slug promoter. Furthermore, ectopic Slug expression partially reverts the Klf4-mediated phenotypes. Consistent with a role as a tumor suppressor in HCC, analysis of the public microarray databases from Oncomine revealed reduced KLF4 expression in human HCC tissues in comparison with normal liver tissues in 3 out of 4 data sets. By quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), we found reduced KLF4 mRNA in 50% of HCC tissues. Importantly, an inverse correlation between the expression of KLF4 and SLUG was found in HCC tissues. Our data suggest that KLF4 acts as a tumor suppressor in HCC cells, in part by suppressing SLUG transcription.
Proline-rich tyrosine kinase 2 (Pyk2), a non-receptor tyrosine kinase of the focal adhesion kinase (FAK) family, is up-regulated in more than 60% of the tumors of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients. Forced overexpression of Pyk2 can promote the proliferation and invasion of HCC cells. In this study, we aimed to explore the underlying molecular mechanism of Pyk2-mediated cell migration of HCC cells.
We demonstrated that Pyk2 transformed the epithelial HCC cell line Hep3B into a mesenchymal phenotype via the induction of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), signified by the up-regulation of membrane ruffle formation, activation of Rac/Rho GTPases, down-regulation of epithelial genes E-cadherin and cytokeratin as well as promotion of cell motility in presence of lysophosphatidic acid (LPA). Suppression of Pyk2 by overexpression of dominant negative PRNK domain in the metastatic HCC cell line MHCC97L transformed its fibroblastoid phenotype to an epithelial phenotype with up-regulation of epithelial genes, down-regulation of mesenchymal genes N-cadherin and STAT5b, and reduction of LPA-induced membrane ruffle formation and cell motility. Moreover, overexpression of Pyk2 in Hep3B cells promoted the phosphorylation and localization of mesenchymal gene Hic-5 onto cell membrane while suppression of Pyk2 in MHCC97L cells attenuated its phosphorylation and localization.
These data provided new evidence of the underlying mechanism of Pyk2 in controlling cell motility of HCC cells through regulation of genes associated with EMT.
Augmenter of liver regeneration (ALR), which is critically important in liver regeneration and hepatocyte proliferation, is highly expressed in cirrhotic livers and hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC). In the current study, the functional role of ALR in hepatocancerogenesis was analyzed in more detail. HepG2 cells, in which the cytosolic 15 kDa ALR isoform was reexpressed stably, (HepG2-ALR) were used in migration and invasion assays using modified Boyden chambers. Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) markers were determined in HepG2-ALR cells in vitro and in HepG2-ALR tumors grown in nude mice. ALR protein was quantified in HCC and nontumorous tissues by immunohistochemistry. HepG2-ALR, compared with HepG2 cells, demonstrated reduced cell motility and increased expression of the epithelial cell markers E-cadherin and Zona occludens-1 (ZO-1), whereas SNAIL, a negative regulator of E-cadherin, was diminished. Matrix metalloproteinase MMP1 and MMP3 mRNA expression and activity were reduced. HepG2-ALR cell-derived subcutaneously grown tumors displayed fewer necrotic areas, more epithelial-like cell growth and fewer polymorphisms and atypical mitotic figures than tumors derived from HepG2 cells. Analysis of tumor tissues of 53 patients with HCC demonstrated an inverse correlation of ALR protein with histological angioinvasion and grading. The 15 kDa ALR isoform was found mainly in HCC tissues without histological angioinvasion 0. In summary the present data indicate that cytosolic ALR reduces hepatoma cell migration, augments epithelial growth and, therefore, may act as an antimetastatic and EMT reversing protein.
AIM: To investigated the interaction between toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4)-activated hepatoma cells and macrophages in the induction of tumor-immune suppression mediated by CD4+CD25high family of transcription factor P3 (FOXP3) regulatory T cells (Tregs).
METHODS: The proportion of FOXP3+ Tregs was identified in peripheral blood and tumor tissues of 60 hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients. TLR4 expression was examined in tumor tissues and cell lines. The correlation was examined between FOXP3+ Tregs in peripheral blood and TLR4 expression of HCC tissues. Following activation of TLR4 in H22 murine hepatoma cells pre-incubated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and co-cultured with macrophage cell line RAW246.7, the synthesis of cytokines tumor necrosis factor-α, CCL22, and interleukin (IL)-10 by the two cell lines was detected and analyzed.
RESULTS: FOXP3+ Tregs were enriched in tumor sites, and circulating FOXP3+ Tregs were increased in HCC patients in correlation with multiple tumor foci and up-regulated TLR4 expression in HCC tissues. Semi-quantitative analysis indicated that TLR4 was over-expressed in HCC compared with the matched normal tissues. Cell cultivation experiments indicated that the mRNAs of IL-10 and CCL22 were significantly up-regulated in the RAW246.7 cell line when co-cultured with LPS pre-incubated H22 cells.
CONCLUSION: In hepatoma cell lines, TLR4 may indirectly facilitate the recruitment of Tregs to the tumor site and promote intrahepatic metastasis through its interaction with macrophages.
CD4+CD25highFOXP3+ regulatory T cell; Toll-like receptor; Tumor immunity; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Macrophage
A growing body of literature highlights the cross-talk between tumor cells and the surrounding peri-tumoral stroma as a key modulator of the processes of hepatocarcinogenesis, epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT), tumor invasion and metastasis. The tumor microenvironment can be broadly classified into cellular and non-cellular components. The major cellular components include hepatic stellate cells, fibroblasts, immune, and endothelial cells. These cell types produce the non-cellular components of the tumor stroma, including extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, proteolytic enzymes, growth factors and inflammatory cytokines. The non-cellular component of the tumor stroma modulates hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) biology by effects on cancer signaling pathways in tumor cells and on tumor invasion and metastasis. Global gene expression profiling of HCC has revealed that the tumor microenvironment is an important component in the biologic and prognostic classification of HCC. There are substantial efforts underway to develop novel drugs targeting tumor–stromal interactions.
In this review, we discuss the current knowledge about the role of the tumor microenvironment in pathogenesis of HCC, the role of the tumor microenvironment in the classification of HCC and efforts to develop treatments targeting the tumor microenvironment.
Hepatocellular carcinoma; tumor microenvironment; hepatic stellate cells; cancer-associated fibroblast; Kupffer cell; T cell; TGF-β1; matrix metalloproteinase; tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase; inflammatory cytokine; gene signature; treatment
E-cadherin is involved in intercellular binding and cellular polarity formation. Snail is a key regulator of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition and is closely associated with tumor invasiveness due to its ability to suppress E-cadherin expression. We investigated the expressions of E-cadherin and Snail in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) tissue to determine the clinical significance of these proteins in HCC.
Immunohistochemistry was used to examine the expressions of E-cadherin and Snail in resected tissues from 59 patients diagnosed with HCC. We also evaluated the relationship between the expressions of these two molecules in HCC tissue and clinicopathologic factors in the patients.
Immunohistochemistry showed that Snail was stained in 20.3% of the HCC tissues and 3.4% of noncancerous tissues. Snail was not stained in the area of E-cadherin expression. The expression of Snail in the HCC tissue was associated with poorly differentiated HCC (P=0.028). The expression of Snail without E-cadherin staining in HCC tissue was significantly associated with postoperative HCC recurrence (P=0.013).
The expression of Snail in HCC tissue was associated with decreased expression of E-cadherin and poorly differentiated HCC. The expression of Snail without E-cadherin staining in HCC was associated with postoperative recurrence.
Hepatocellular carcinoma; Snail; E-cadherin; Immunohistochemistry; Differentiation
Background & Aims
Epidemiological studies have shown that obesity is a risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Lower adiponectin levels are associated with poor prognosis in obese HCC patients hence it is plausible that adiponectin acts as a negative regulator of HCC. Here, we investigated the effects of adiponectin on HCC development and elucidated the underlying molecular mechanisms.
We utilized various in vitro assays using Huh7 and HepG2 HCC cells to examine the signal transduction pathways involved in protective function of adiponectin in HCC. These studies were followed by in vivo approaches using HCC xenografts and tumor analysis. Results from in vitro and in vivo findings were corroborated using human HCC tissue micro-array (TMA) and analysis of clinicopathological characteristics.
Adiponectin treatment resulted in increased apoptosis of HCC cells via activation of caspase-3. Adiponectin increased phosphorylation of c-Jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK) and inhibition of JNK-phosphorylation inhibited adiponectin-induced apoptosis and caspase-3 activation. Adiponectin increased phosphorylation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and tumor suppressor TSC2 and inhibited mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) phosphorylation. Inhibition of AMPK phosphorylation not only inhibited adiponectin-induced JNK phosphorylation but also effectively blocked biological effects of adiponectin. In vivo study showed that adiponectin treatment substantially reduced liver tumorigenesis in nude mice. Importantly, analysis of adiponectin expression levels in TMA of human HCC patients revealed an inverse correlation of adiponectin expression with tumor size.
These novel findings show protective role of adiponectin in liver tumorigenesis and could help explain poor prognosis of obese HCC patients who typically have low adiponectin levels.
Hepatocellular carcinoma; Adiponectin; TSC2; mTOR
The tumor–stroma crosstalk is a dynamic process fundamental in tumor development. In hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the progression of malignant hepatocytes frequently depends on transforming growth factor (TGF)-β provided by stromal cells. TGF-β induces an epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) of oncogenic Ras-transformed hepatocytes and an upregulation of platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) signaling. To analyse the influence of the hepatic tumor–stroma crosstalk onto tumor growth and progression, we co-injected malignant hepatocytes and myofibroblasts (MFBs). For this, we either used in vitro-activated p19ARF MFBs or in vivo-activated MFBs derived from physiologically inflamed livers of Mdr2/p19ARF double-null mice. We show that co-transplantation of MFBs with Ras-transformed hepatocytes strongly enhances tumor growth. Genetic interference with the PDGF signaling decreases tumor cell growth and maintains plasma membrane-located E-cadherin and β-catenin at the tumor–host border, indicating a blockade of hepatocellular EMT. We further generated a collagen gel-based three dimensional HCC model in vitro to monitor the MFB-induced invasion of micro-organoid HCC spheroids. This invasion was diminished after inhibition of TGF-β or PDGF signaling. These data suggest that the TGF-β/PDGF axis is crucial during hepatic tumor–stroma crosstalk, regulating both tumor growth and cancer progression.
TGF-β; PDGF; tumor–stroma interaction; epithelial to mesenchymal transition; spheroid
Antiangiogenesis is a promising therapy for advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), but the effects are difficult to be evaluated. Pazopanib (GW786034B) is a pan-vascular endothelial growth factor receptor inhibitor, the antitumor effects or antiangiogenic effects haven't been investigated in HCC.
In vitro direct effects of pazopanib on human HCC cell lines and endothelial cells were evaluated. In vivo antitumor effects were evaluated in three xenograft nude mice models. In the subcutaneous HCCLM3 model, intratumoral blood perfusion was detected by contrast-enhanced ultrasonography (CEUS), and serial quantitative parameters were profiled from the time-intensity curves of ultrasonograms.
In vitro proliferation of various HCC cell lines were not inhibited by pazopanib. Pazopanib inhibited migration and invasion and induced apoptosis significantly in two HCC cell lines, HCCLM3 and PLC/PRF/5. Proliferation, migration, and tubule formation of human umbilical vein endothelial cells were inhibited by pazopanib in a dose-dependent manner. In vivo tumor growth was significantly inhibited by pazopanib in HCCLM3, HepG2, and PLC/PRF/5 xenograft models. Various intratumoral perfusion parameters changed over time, and the signal intensity was significantly impaired in the treated tumors before the treatment efficacy on tumor size could be observed. Mean transit time of the contrast media in hotspot areas of the tumors was reversely correlated with intratumoral microvessel density.
Antitumor effects of pazopanib in HCC xenografts may owe to its antiangiogenic effects, and the in vivo antiangiogenic effects could be evaluated by quantitative CEUS.
The existence of microvascular invasion (MVI) formation is one of the most important risk factors predicting poor outcome in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and its mechanism remains largely unknown. Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) has been suggested to be involved in many steps of the invasion-metastasis cascade. To elucidate the possible contribution of EMT to MVI, we initially evaluated the expression of 8 EMT-related transcription factors (TFs) in HCC patients with or without MVI and found that FOXC1 expression was significantly higher in patients with MVI than those without MVI (P < 0.05). Knockdown of FOXC1 expression in HCC cells resulted in a partial conversion of their EMT progresses, mainly regulating the mesenchymal component. Ectopic expression of snail, twist or TGF-β1 could induce expression of FOXC1, but none of the expression of snail, twist, slug or TGF-β was consistently down-regulated in response to FOXC1 silencing, suggesting FOXC1 might operate the downstream of other EMT regulators. In addition, knockdown of FOXC1 expression led to cytoskeleton modification accompanied by decreased ability of cell proliferation, migration, and invasion. Meanwhile, some matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and VEGF-A were also simultaneously down-regulated. Together, our findings demonstrate that FOXC1 is one of candidate predictive markers of MVI, and that inhibition of FOXC1 expression can partially reverse EMT program, offering a potential molecular therapeutic target for reducing tumor metastasis in HCC patients.
Hepatocellular carcinoma; Microvascular invasion; Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition; FOXC1.
Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and associated liver cirrhosis represent a major risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development. TGF-β is an important driver of liver fibrogenesis and cancer; however, its actual impact in human cancer progression is still poorly known. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of HCC-derived HCV core natural variants on cancer progression through their impact on TGF-β signaling.
We provide evidence that HCC-derived core protein expression in primary human or mouse hepatocyte alleviates TGF-β responses in terms or growth inhibition or apoptosis. Instead, in these hepatocytes TGF-β was still able to induce an epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process that contributes to the promotion of cell invasion and metastasis. Moreover, we demonstrate that different thresholds of Smad3 activation dictate the TGF-β responses in hepatic cells and that HCV core protein, by decreasing Smad3 activation, may switch TGF-β growth inhibitory effects to tumor promoting responses.
Our data illustrate the capacity of hepatocytes to develop EMT and plasticity under TGF-β, emphasize the role of HCV core protein in the dynamic of these effects and provide evidence for a paradigm whereby a viral protein implicated in oncogenesis is capable to shift TGF-β responses from cytostatic effects to EMT development.
To illustrate the prognostic significance of hedgehog (Hh) signaling in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients, and to evaluate the efficacy of a novel nanoparticle-encapsulated inhibitor of the Hh transcription factor, Gli-1 (“NanoHHI”) using in vitro and in vivo models of human HCC.
Patched1 (Ptch1) expression was detected in tumor tissue microarrays of 396 HCC patients who underwent curative surgical resection during 2/2000 to 12/2002. Prognostic significance was assessed using Kaplan-Meier survival estimates and log-rank tests. The effects of NanoHHI alone and in combination with sorafenib were investigated on HCC cell lines. Primary HCC tumor growth and metastasis were examined in vivo using subcutaneous and orthotopic HCC xenografts in nude mice.
Elevated expression of Ptch1 in HCC tissues was significantly related to disease recurrence, as well as a shorter time to recurrence in HCC patients. In vitro, NanoHHI significantly inhibited the proliferation and invasion of HCC cell lines. NanoHHI potently suppressed in vivo tumor growth of HCC xenografts in both subcutaneous and orthotopic milieus, and in contrast to sorafenib, resulted in significant attenuation of systemic metastases in the orthotopic setting. Further, NanoHHI significantly decreased the population of CD133-expressing HCC cells, which have been implicated in tumor initiation and metastases.
Downstream Hh signaling has prognostic significance in HCC patients as it predicts early recurrence. Gli inhibition through NanoHHI has profound tumor growth inhibition and anti-metastatic effects in HCC models, which may provide a new strategy in the treatment of HCC patients and prevention post-operative recurrence.
Hepatocellular carcinoma; Hedgehog; smoothened; Gli1; HPI-1; polymeric nanoparticle; NanoHHI
The aim of this study was to characterize the oncogenic function and mechanism of Cathepsin Z (CTSZ) at 20q13.3, a frequently amplified region in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Real-time PCR were used to compare CTSZ expression between paired HCC tumor and non-tumor specimens. CTSZ gene was stably transfected into HCC line QGY-7703 cells and its role in tumorigenicity and cell motility was characterized by soft agar, wound-healing, transwell invasion and cell adhesion assay, and tumor xenograft mouse model. Western blot analysis was used to study expression of proteins associated with epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT).
Upregulation of CTSZ was detected in 59/137 (43%) of primary HCCs, which was significantly associated with advanced clinical stage (P = 0.000). Functional study found that CTSZ could increase colony formation in soft agar and promote cell motility. Further study found that the metastatic effect of CTSZ was associated with its role in inducing epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) by upregulating mesenchymal markers (fibronectin and vimentin) and downregulating epithelial markers (E-cadherin and α-catenin). In addition, CTSZ could also upregulate proteins associated with extracellular matrix remodeling such as MMP2, MMP3 and MMP9. Taken together, our data suggested that CTSZ was a candidate oncogene within the 20q13 amplicon and it played an important role in HCC metastasis.
The role of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) during hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) progression is well established, however the regulatory mechanisms modulating this phenomenon remain unclear. Here, we demonstrate that transcription factor glioma-associated oncogene 1 (GLI1) modulates EMT through direct up-regulation of SNAI1 and serves as a downstream effector of the transforming growth factor-β1 (TGFβ1) pathway, a well-known regulator of EMT in cancer cells. Overexpression of GLI1 increased proliferation, viability, migration, invasion, and colony formation by HCC cells. Conversely, GLI1 knockdown led to a decrease in all the above-mentioned cancer-associated phenotypes in HCC cells. Further analysis of GLI1 regulated cellular functions showed that this transcription factor is able to induce EMT and identified SNAI1 as a transcriptional target of GLI1 mediating this cellular effect in HCC cells. Moreover, we demonstrated that an intact GLI1-SNAI1 axis is required by TGFβ1 to induce EMT in these cells. Together, these findings define a novel cellular mechanism regulated by GLI1, which controls the growth and EMT phenotype in HCC.
14-3-3ε is implicated in regulating tumor progression, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Our earlier study indicated that elevated 14-3-3ε expression is significantly associated with higher risk of metastasis and lower survival rates of HCC patients. However, the molecular mechanisms of how 14-3-3ε regulates HCC tumor metastasis are still unclear.
Methodology and Principal Findings
In this study, we show that increased 14-3-3ε expression induces HCC cell migration and promotes epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), which is determined by the reduction of E-cadherin expression and induction of N-cadherin and vimentin expression. Knockdown with specific siRNA abolished 14-3-3ε-induced cell migration and EMT. Furthermore, 14-3-3ε selectively induced Zeb-1 and Snail expression, and 14-3-3ε-induced cell migration was abrogated by Zeb-1 or Snail siRNA. In addition, the effect of 14-3-3ε-reduced E-cadherin was specifically restored by Zeb-1 siRNA. Positive 14-3-3ε expression was significantly correlated with negative E-cadherin expression, as determined by immunohistochemistry analysis in HCC tumors. Analysis of 14-3-3ε/E-cadherin expression associated with clinicopathological characteristics revealed that the combination of positive 14-3-3ε and negative E-cadherin expression is significantly correlated with higher incidence of HCC metastasis and poor 5-year overall survival. In contrast, patients with positive 14-3-3ε and positive E-cadherin expression had better prognostic outcomes than did those with negative E-cadherin expression.
Our findings show for the first time that E-cadherin is one of the downstream targets of 14-3-3ε in modulating HCC tumor progression. Thus, 14-3-3ε may act as an important regulator in modulating tumor metastasis by promoting EMT as well as cell migration, and it may serve as a novel prognostic biomarker or therapeutic target for HCC.
The efferent vessel of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and the mechanism and pathogenesis of the high frequency of intrahepatic metastasis in HCC has not yet been clarified. Three hundred ninety-three resected specimens of HCC were examined for tumor thrombosis in the portal vein and the hepatic vein: 231 tumors ≤5 cm in diameter were examined for the relationship between mode of tumor spread and tumor size. Efferent vessels in HCC were identified by direct injection of radiopaque material into the tumor in 23 resected liver specimens and by percutaneous infusion of radiopaque media into tumor nodules in 8 patients. The mode of tumor spread in HCC progressed from capsular invasion to extracapsular invasion, then to vascular invasion, and finally to intrahepatic metastasis. There was a strong statistical correlation between the presence of intrahepatic metastasis and portal vein thrombosis (p<0.05, R=0.998). Radiopaque material injected directly into 23 resected tumors entered only the portal vein in 17 tumors and into both the portal and hepatic veins in 6 tumors. In all 8 patients with unresectable lesions, radiopaque media injected percutaneously into tumor nodules flowed only into the portal vein. These findings suggest that intrahepatic invasion by HCC may occur through the portal vein as an efferent tumor vessel.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third largest cause of cancer deaths worldwide. The role of molecular changes in HCC have been used to identify prognostic markers and chemopreventive or therapeutic targets. It seems that toll-like receptors (TLRs) as well as the nuclear factor (NF)-κB, and JNK pathways are critical regulators for the production of the cytokines associated with tumor promotion. The cross-talk between an inflammatory cell and a neoplastic cell, which is instigated by the activation of NF-κB and JNKs, is critical for tumor organization. JNKs also regulate cell proliferation and act as oncogenes, making them the main tumor-promoting protein kinases. TLRs play roles in cytokine and hepatomitogen expression mainly in myeloid cells and may promote liver tumorigenesis. A better understanding of these signaling pathways in the liver will help us understand the mechanism of hepatocarcinogenesis and provide a new therapeutic target for HCC.
Toll-like receptors (TLR) are key innate immunity receptors participating in an immune response. Growing evidence suggests that mutations of TLR2/TLR9 gene are associated with the progress of cancers. The present study aimed to investigate the temporal relationship of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) of TLR2/TLR9 and the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
In this single center-based case-control study, SNaPshot method was used to genotype sequence variants of TLR2 and TLR9 in 211 patients with HCC and 232 subjects as controls.
Two synonymous SNPs in the exon of TLR2 were closely associated with risk of HCC. Compared with those carrying wild-type homozygous genotypes (T/T), risk of HCC decreased significantly in individuals carrying the heterozygous genotypes (C/T) of the rs3804099 (adjusted odds ratio (OR), 0.493, 95% CI 0.331 - 0.736, P < 0.01) and rs3804100 (adjusted OR, 0.509, 95% CI 0.342 - 0.759, P < 0.01). There was no significant association found in two TLR9 SNPs concerning the risk of HCC. The haplotype TT for TLR2 was associated significantly with the decreased risk of HCC (OR 0.524, 95% CI 0.394 - 0.697, P = 0.000). Inversely, the risk of HCC increased significantly in patients with the haplotype CC (OR 2.743, 95% CI 1.915 - 3.930, P = 0.000).
These results suggested that TLR2 rs3804099 C/T and rs3804100 C/T polymorphisms were closely associated with HCC. In addition, the haplotypes composed of these two TLR2 synonymous SNPs have stronger effects on the susceptibility of HCC.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is an aggressive cancer with a poor prognosis. The specific cellular gene alterations responsible for hepatocarcinogenesis are not well known. Cytokine-induced antiapoptotic molecule (CIAPIN1), a recently reported antiapoptotic molecule which plays an essential role in mouse definitive hematopoiesis, is considered a downstream effecter of the receptor tyrosine kinase–Ras signaling pathway. However, the exact function of this gene in tumors is not clear. In this study, we reported that CIAPIN1 is highly expressed in HCC as compared with non-tumor hepatic tissue (P < 0.05). We employed adenovirus-mediated RNA interference technique to knock down CIAPIN1 expression in HCC cells and observed its effects on HCC cell growth in vitro and in vivo. Among the four HCC and one normal human liver cell lines we analyzed, CIAPIN1 was highly expressed in HCC cells. Knock down of CIAPIN1 could inhibit HCC cell proliferation by inhibiting the cell cycle S-phase entry. Soft agar colony formation assay indicated that the colony-forming ability of SMMC-7721 cells decreased by ∼70% after adenovirus AdH1-small interfering RNA (siRNA)/CIAPIN1 infection. In vivo experiments showed that adenovirus AdH1-siRNA/CIAPIN1 inhibited the tumorigenicity of SMMC-7721 cells and significantly suppressed tumor growth when injected directly into tumors. These results suggest that knock down of CIAPIN1 by adenovirus-delivered siRNA may be a potential therapeutic strategy for treatment of HCC in which CIAPIN1 is overexpressed.
Invasion of the portal and hepatic veins by hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is common, but macroscopic bile duct invasion is rare. Once a tumor thrombus completely obstructs the main bile duct, it causes obstructive jaundice. This type of HCC, known as icteric-type HCC (IHCC), has a poor prognosis.
PRESENTATION OF CASE
A 72-year-old woman had been treated for chronic hepatitis C since 1997. In 2002, percutaneous ethanol injection therapy was performed for HCC in segment 8. HCC recurrence occurred in 2004, and she underwent transarterial embolization (TAE) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA). In 2006, an S8 segmentectomy was performed for re-recurrence of HCC. Three years after surgery, computed tomography (CT) revealed a tumor occupying the right anterior intrahepatic bile duct and extending into its right main branch. With a preoperative diagnosis of HCC recurrence in the bile duct, we performed a right hepatectomy and thrombectomy. Histological examination showed moderately to poorly differentiated HCC. No tumor tissue other than the intrahepatic bile duct tumor was detected in the resected liver specimen.
HCC with biliary tumor thrombus is associated with a poor prognosis. In general, IHCC is difficult to diagnose and treat in the early stages. A characteristic radiological finding for this type of IHCC is the hypervascularity of the tumor thrombus.
To the best of our knowledge, this is a rare case of IHCC recurrence as a tumor thrombus without recurrence in the resected liver specimen.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC); Intraductal tumor; Tumor thrombus
In human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) correlates with aggressiveness of tumors and poor survival. We employed a model of EMT based on immortalized p19ARF null hepatocytes (MIM), which display tumor growth upon expression of oncogenic Ras and undergo EMT through the synergism of Ras and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β. Here, we show that the interleukin-related protein interleukin-like EMT inducer (ILEI), a novel EMT-, tumor- and metastasis-inducing protein, cooperates with oncogenic Ras to cause TGF-β-independent EMT. Ras-transformed MIM hepatocytes overexpressing ILEI showed cytoplasmic E-cadherin, loss of ZO-1 and induction of α-smooth muscle actin as well as platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)/PDGF-R isoforms. As shown by dominant-negative PDGF-R expression in these cells, ILEI-induced PDGF signaling was required for enhanced cell migration, nuclear accumulation of β-catenin, nuclear pY-Stat3 and accelerated growth of lung metastases. In MIM hepatocytes expressing the Ras mutant V12-C40, ILEI collaborated with PI3K signaling resulting in tumor formation without EMT. Clinically, human HCC samples showed granular or cytoplasmic localization of ILEI correlating with well and poorly differentiated tumors, respectively. In conclusion, these data indicate that ILEI requires cooperation with oncogenic Ras to govern hepatocellular EMT through mechanisms involving PDGF-R/β-catenin and PDGF-R/Stat3 signaling.
hepatocyte; ILEI; epithelial to mesenchymal transition; HCC; tumor progression
The transition of epithelial cells to a mesenchymal phenotype (EMT) is of paramount relevance for embryonic development and adult wound healing. During the past decade, EMT has been increasingly recognized to occur during the progression of various carcinomas such as hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Here we focus on EMT in both experimental liver models and human HCC, emphasizing the underlying molecular mechanisms which show partial recurrence of embryonic programs such as TGF-β and Wnt/β-catenin signaling including collaboration with hepatitis viruses. We further discuss the differentiation repertoire of malignant hepatocytes with respect to the potential acquisition of stemness, and the involvement of the mesenchymal to epithelial transition, the reversal of EMT, in cancer dissemination and metastatic colonization. The strong evidence for EMT in HCC patients demands novel strategies in pathological assessments and therapeutic concepts to efficiently combat HCC progression.
Hepatocyte; HCC; EMT; tumor progression; cell invasion; metastasis; tumor-stroma; stemness