Research Papers:

miR-338-3p inhibits epithelial-mesenchymal transition and metastasis in hepatocellular carcinoma cells

Jing-Song Chen, Li-Li Liang, Hong-Xu Xu, Fan Chen, Shun-Li Shen, Wei Chen, Lian-Zhou Chen, Qiao Su, Long-Juan Zhang, Jiong Bi, Wen-Tao Zeng, Wen Li, Ning Ma and Xiao-Hui Huang _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:71418-71429. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.10138

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Jing-Song Chen1, Li-Li Liang2, Hong-Xu Xu3, Fan Chen4, Shun-Li Shen5, Wei Chen5, Lian-Zhou Chen4, Qiao Su6, Long-Juan Zhang4, Jiong Bi4, Wen-Tao Zeng4, Wen Li4, Ning Ma7 and Xiao-Hui Huang4

1Department of Gastrointestinal Surgery, The First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China

2Departments of Pediatrics, The First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China

3Departments of Laboratory, The First Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China

4Departments of General Surgical Laboratory, The First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China

5Departments of Hepatobiliary Surgery, The First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China

6Animal Center, The First Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China

7Department of Gastrointestinal, Hernia and Abdominal Surgery, The Sixth Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China

Correspondence to:

Ning Ma, email: [email protected]

Xiao-Hui Huang, email: [email protected]

Keywords: miR-338-3p, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, Snail1, N-cadherin, sonic hedgehog

Received: November 25, 2015     Accepted: June 04, 2016     Published: June 17, 2016


Down-regulation of the miRNA miR-338-3p correlates with the invasive ability of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells. However, it is currently unclear whether down-regulation of miR-338-3p induces epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), which may be the underlying mechanism governing HCC invasion. Here, we demonstrate that restoration of miR-338-3p expression via transfection of a miR-338-3p mimic reversed EMT and inhibited the motility and invasiveness of HCC cells. Conversely, silencing of endogenous miR-338-3p expression with a miR-338-3p-specific inhibitor induced EMT and enhanced HCC cell motility. Additionally, Snail1 (an upstream regulatory protein of EMT) and Gli1 (a key transcription factor in the sonic hedgehog (SHH) signaling pathway) expression was up-regulated in cells treated with the miR-338-3p inhibitor and down-regulated by the miR-338-3p mimic. Further analyses demonstrated that miR-338-3p inhibitor-induced EMT in HCC cells was blocked by treatment with a small interfering RNA (siRNA) targeting Snail1, that the SHH signaling pathway was required for both miR-338-3p inhibitor-induced EMT and up-regulation of Snail1, and that miR-338-3p targeted a sequence within the 3´-untranslated region of N-cadherin mRNA. Notably, miR-338-3p expression was significantly down-regulated in HCC samples from patients with metastases and was associated with poor metastasis-free survival rates. Lastly, correlations between the expression levels of miR-338-3p and E-cadherin, Smoothened (SMO), Gli1, Snail1, N-cadherin, and vimentin were confirmed in HCC xenograft tumors and HCC patient specimens. Our findings suggest that miR-338-3p suppresses EMT and metastasis via both inhibition of the SHH/Gli1 pathway and direct binding of N-cadherin. miR-338-3p is a potential therapeutic target for metastatic HCC.

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