Research Papers:

Notch and Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway play important roles in activating liver cancer stem cells

Ronghua Wang, Qian Sun, Peng Wang, Man Liu, Si Xiong, Jing Luo, Hai Huang, Qiang Du, David A. Geller and Bin Cheng _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:5754-5768. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.6805

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Ronghua Wang1,2, Qian Sun1, Peng Wang1, Man Liu1, Si Xiong1, Jing Luo1, Hai Huang2, Qiang Du2, David A. Geller2, Bin Cheng1

1Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China

2Department of Surgery, Starzl Transplantation Institute, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Correspondence to:

Bin Cheng, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma, cancer stem cells, Notch, Wnt/β-catenin

Received: July 22, 2015     Accepted: December 09, 2015     Published: December 31, 2015


Human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is driven and maintained by liver cancer stem cells (LCSCs) that display stem cell properties. These LCSCs are promoted by the intersecting of Notch and Wnt/β-Catenin signaling pathways. In this study, we demonstrate that LCSCs with markers CD90, CD24, CD13, and CD133 possess stem properties of self-renewal and tumorigenicity in NOD/SCID mice. The increased expression of these markers was correlated with advanced disease stage, larger tumors, and worse overall survival in 61 HCC cases. We also found that both Notch and Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathways played important roles in increasing the stem-ness characteristics of LCSCs. Our data suggested that Notch1 was downstream of Wnt/β-catenin. The active form of Notch1 intracellular domain (NICD) expression depended on Wnt/β-catenin pathway activation. Moreover, Notch1 negatively contributed to Wnt/β-catenin signaling modulation. Knock down of Notch1 with lentivirus N1ShRNA up-regulated the active form of β-catenin. Ectopic expression of NICD with LV-Notch1 in LCSCs attenuated β-catenin/TCF dependent luciferase activity significantly. In addition, there was a non-proteasome mediated feedback loop between Notch1 and Wnt/β-catenin signaling in LCSCs. The central role of Notch and the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway in LCSCs may provide an attractive therapeutic strategy against HCC.

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