Research Papers:

Targeting endogenous DLK1 exerts antitumor effect on hepatocellular carcinoma through initiating cell differentiation

Chun-Miao Cai, Xu Xiao, Bing-Hao Wu, Bao-Feng Wei and Ze-Guang Han _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:71466-71476. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.12214

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Chun-Miao Cai1,2,*, Xu Xiao2,*, Bing-Hao Wu1,2,3,*, Bao-Feng Wei1,2, Ze-Guang Han1,2,3

1Key Laboratory of Systems Biomedicine (Ministry of Education) and Collaborative Innovation Center of Systems Biomedicine of Rui-Jin Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200025, China

2Shanghai-MOST Key Laboratory for Disease and Health Genomics, Chinese National Human Genome Center at Shanghai, Shanghai 201203, China

3Shanghai Center of Systems Biomedicine, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200240, China

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Ze-Guang Han, email: [email protected]

Keywords: DLK1, hepatocellular carcinoma, RNA interference, cell differentiation

Received: June 03, 2016     Accepted: September 16, 2016     Published: September 23, 2016


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are responsible for tumor initiation and progression. We previously showed that Delta-like homolog 1 (DLK1) may be a therapeutic target against the CSCs of human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, the therapeutic efficacy and underlying mechanism remain unclear. Here we demonstrated that knockdown of DLK1 using a tet-inducible short hairpin RNA (shRNA) system significantly inhibited proliferation, spheroid formation and in vivo xenograft tumor growth of human HCC cells. Furthermore, in an orthotopic xenograft mouse model, adenovirus-mediated DLK1 knockdown could significantly reduce tumor size, as shown by in vivo imaging approach. Subsequently, an adenoviral vector harboring mouse Dlk1 shRNA was applied. The results showed that Dlk1 knockdown also could inhibit tumor progression in a diethylnitrosamine (DEN) induced mouse HCC model. At cellular mechanism, DLK1 knockdown delayed the cell cycle G1-S transition, along with the decreased expression of cyclin E1 and D1. Significantly, DLK1 knockdown resulted in the decrease of molecular markers such as AFP and EpCAM for hepatic progenitor cells, but the increase of KRT18 and KRT19 for the differentiated hepatocytes. The collective data indicated that targeting endogenous DLK1 may exert antitumor effect on HCCs possibly through initiating cell differentiation.

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