APLN promotes hepatocellular carcinoma through activating PI3K/Akt pathway and is a druggable target
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AbstractBackground: The pathogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a multistep process contributed by the accumulation of molecular alterations. We identified Apelin (APLN) as an outlier gene up-regulated in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) through RNA-Seq and microarray analysis. We aimed to investigate its function, mechanism of action and clinical implication in HCC.

Methods: Gene expression and clinical implication of APLN were assessed in multiple human HCC cohorts. Ectopic expression and silencing of APLN were performed to determine its function. The therapeutic potential of APLN and its downstream pathway was investigated using in vitro and in vivo models.

Results: APLN overexpression was commonly observed in more than 80% of HCCs and independently predicted poorer survival of patients in three independent HCC cohorts. Apelin up-regulation was mediated by active beta-catenin, which binds to the APLN promoter to induce transcription. Ectopic APLN expression in HCC cells promoted cell proliferation, accelerated G1/S progression and inhibited apoptosis, whilst APLN knockdown exerted opposite effects in vitro and inhibited HCC xenograft growth in mice. Mechanistically, APLN activated phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/protein kinase B (PI3K/Akt) pathway via APLN receptor, leading to increased expression of phospho-glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta (p-GSK3 beta) and cyclin D1. Pharmacological targeting of APLN by ML221 was safe and effective in inhibiting APLN-PI3K/Akt cascade and HCC growth in vitro and in vivo.

Conclusions: Our findings unraveled an oncogenic role of APLN in HCC, and that targeting of APLN might be a promising for HCC treatment. APLN may serve as an independent prognostic factor for HCC patients.
All Author(s) ListHuarong Chen, Chi-Chun Wong, Dabin Liu, Minnie Y.Y. Go, Bin Wu, Sui Peng, Ming Kuang, Nathalie Wong, Jun Yu
Journal nameTheranostics
Volume Number9
Issue Number18
PublisherIvyspring International Publisher
Pages5246 - 5260
LanguagesEnglish-United Kingdom

Last updated on 2021-09-06 at 23:56