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STMN1 has been regarded as an oncogene and its upregulation is closely associated with malignant behavior and poor prognosis in multiple cancers. However, the detailed functions and underlying mechanisms of STMN1 are still largely unknown in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development. Herein, we analyzed STMN1 expression and the related clinical significance in HCC by using well-established Protein Atlas, The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) cancer databases. Analysis indicated that STMN1 was highly expressed in HCC and closely associated with vascular invasion, higher histological grade, advanced clinical grade and shorter survival time in HCC patients. Overexpressing and silencing STMN1 in HCC cell lines showed that STMN1 could regulate cell proliferation, migration, drug resistance, cancer stem cell properties in vitro as well as tumor growth in vivo. Further experiments showed that STMN1 mediated intricate crosstalk between HCC and hepatic stellate cells (HSC) by triggering the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)/MET signal pathway. When HSC were cocultured with HCC cells, HSC secreted more HGF to stimulate the expression of STMN1 in HCC cells. Mutually, STMN1 upregulation in HCC cells facilitated HSC activation to acquire cancer-associated fibroblast (CAF) features. The MET inhibitor crizotinib significantly blocked this crosstalk and slowed tumor growth in vivo. In conclusion, our findings shed new insight on STMN1 function, and suggest that STMN1 may be used as a potential marker to identify patients who may benefit from MET inhibitor treatment. © 2019 The Authors. Cancer Science published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of Japanese Cancer Association.

Citation

Rui Zhang, Xiaomei Gao, Jieliang Zuo, Beiyuan Hu, Jimeng Yang, Jing Zhao, Jinhong Chen. STMN1 upregulation mediates hepatocellular carcinoma and hepatic stellate cell crosstalk to aggravate cancer by triggering the MET pathway. Cancer science. 2020 Feb;111(2):406-417

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PMID: 31785057

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