Research Papers:

HOXB7 promotes tumor progression via bFGF-induced activation of MAPK/ERK pathway and indicated poor prognosis in hepatocellular carcinoma

Wei-Min Wang, Yang Xu, Yao-Hui Wang, Hai-Xiang Sun, Yun-Fan Sun, Yi-Feng He, Qing-Feng Zhu, Bo Hu, Xin Zhang, Jing-Lin Xia, Shuang-Jian Qiu, Jian Zhou, Xin-Rong Yang and Jia Fan _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:47121-47135. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.17004

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Wei-Min Wang1,2,*, Yang Xu1,*, Yao-Hui Wang3,*, Hai-Xiang Sun1, Yun-Fan Sun1, Yi-Feng He1, Qing-Feng Zhu1,2, Bo Hu1, Xin Zhang1, Jing-Lin Xia1, Shuang-Jian Qiu1, Jian Zhou1,2, Xin-Rong Yang1 and Jia Fan1,2

1Department of Liver Surgery, Liver Cancer Institute, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Key Laboratory of Carcinogenesis and Cancer Invasion, Ministry of Education, Shanghai 200032, P. R. China

2Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, P. R. China

3Department of Interventional Radiology, Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center, Department of Oncology, Shanghai Medical College, Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, P. R. China

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Jia Fan, email: jiafan99@yahoo.com

Xin-Rong Yang, email: yang.xinrong@zs-hospital.sh.cn

Keywords: HOXB7, bFGF, hepatocellular carcinoma, prognosis, invasion and metastasis

Received: September 20, 2016    Accepted: February 06, 2017    Published: April 10, 2017


The homeobox-containing gene HOXB7 plays an important role in the pathogenesis and progression of many cancers, yet its role in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains unclear. This study comprehensively analyzed the expression and clinical significance of HOXB7 in HCC and explored its potential mechanism in tumor progression. We found HOXB7 was highly expressed in HCC cell lines with highly metastatic potential and cancerous tissues from patients with tumor recurrence. The abilities of proliferation, migration, and invasion were notably decreased by depletion of HOXB7, and were enhanced by its enforced expression in vitro. HOXB7 expression was positively correlated with tumor progression and lung metastasis in vivo. The gene microarray data implied that HOXB7 affects biological functions of HCC cells through MAPK/ERK pathway activation. Further study confirmed that the effect of HOXB7 in activating MAPK/ERK pathway via induction of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) secretion, and the inhibition of bFGF secretion could abolish MAPK/ERK pathway activation after ectopic expression of HOXB7. Chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments and luciferase reporter assays confirmed that HOXB7 promoted bFGF secretion via binding its promoter directly. Furthermore, the clinical significance of HOXB7 expression was confirmed using tissue microarrays containing 394 HCC tissue specimens. Patients with high HOXB7 expression showed shorter survival times and higher recurrence rates, and HOXB7 was an independent indicator for survival and recurrence. Overall, HOXB7 promotes HCC cell proliferation, migration, and invasion through the bFGF-induced MAPK/ERK pathway activation. It might be a novel prognostic factor in HCC and a promising therapeutic target for tumor metastasis and recurrence.

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