Targeting the VEGF-C/VEGFR3 axis suppresses Slug-mediated cancer metastasis and stemness via inhibition of KRAS/YAP1 signaling

Yu-Wen Yeh _, Ching-Chia Cheng, Shu-Ting Yang, Chi-Feng Tseng, Ting-Yu Chang, Sin-Ying Tsai, Earl Fu, Chien-Ping Chiang, Li-Chuan Liao, Pei-Wen Tsai, Yung-Luen Yu and Jen-Liang Su

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:5603-5618. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.13629

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Yu-Wen Yeh1,2, Ching-Chia Cheng3,4, Shu-Ting Yang4, Chi-Feng Tseng4, Ting-Yu Chang4, Sin-Ying Tsai5, Earl Fu6, Chien-Ping Chiang7, Li-Chuan Liao8, Pei-Wen Tsai9, Yung-Luen Yu5,10,11, Jen-Liang Su4,5,10,11

1Division of Dermatology, Tri-Service General Hospital Songshan Branch, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei 10581, Taiwan

2Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei 11490, Taiwan

3Graduate Institute of Life Sciences, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei 11490, Taiwan

4National Institute of Cancer Research, National Health Research Institutes, Zhunan, Miaoli County 35053, Taiwan

5Department of Biotechnology, Asia University, Taichung 41354, Taiwan

6Department of Periodontology, Tri-Service General Hospital, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei 11490, Taiwan

7Department of Dermatology, Tri-Service General Hospital, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei 11490, Taiwan

8Bioresource Collection and Research Center, Food Industry Research and Development Institute, Hsinchu 30062, Taiwan

9Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu 30013, Taiwan

10Graduate Institute of Biomedical Sciences, China Medical University, Taichung 40402, Taiwan

11Center for Molecular Medicine, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung 40447, Taiwan

Correspondence to:

Jen-Liang Su, email: [email protected]

Yung-Luen Yu, email: [email protected]

Keywords: VEGF-C, YAP1, metastasis, cancer stemness, skin cancer

Received: August 08, 2016     Accepted: November 07, 2016     Published: November 25, 2016


Vascular endothelial growth factor-C (VEGF-C) has been implicated in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) processes and various human cancers, including skin cancer. Skin cancer is an aggressive human malignancy with increasing incidence worldwide; however, the underlying mechanisms involved in VEGF-C-induced skin cancer stemness and metastasis remain unclear. Here, we report that VEGF-C enhances skin cancer migration, invasion and stemness through Slug up-regulation. Oncomine database analysis indicated that the KRAS/MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinases) pathway and YAP1 (yes-associated protein 1) expression are positively correlated with metastatic skin cancer. We show that VEGF-C triggers the activation of KRAS/MAPK signaling to increase YAP1 and downstream Slug expression, which are suppressed by an anti-VEGFR3 (VEGF receptor 3) peptide, a specific peptide targeting VEGFR3. The VEGF-C-induced migration, invasion and stemness of skin cancer cells are also abrogated by the anti-VEGFR3 peptide. Based on these data, we reveal the role of the VEGF-C/VEGFR3-mediated KRAS/MAPK-YAP1/Slug pathway in skin cancer progression and propose that the VEGF-C/VEGFR3 axis is a promising target for the anti-VEGFR3 peptide.

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