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Hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] is a potent human lung carcinogen. Multiple mechanisms have been proposed that contribute to Cr(VI)-induced lung carcinogenesis including oxidative stress, DNA damage, genomic instability and epigenetic modulation. However, the molecular mechanisms and pathways mediating Cr(VI) carcinogenicity have not been fully elucidated. Hedgehog (Hh) signaling is a key pathway that plays important roles in the formation of multiple tissues during embryogenesis and in the maintenance of stem cell populations in adults. Dysregulation of Hh signaling pathway has been reported in many human cancers. Here, we report a drastic reduction in both mRNA and protein levels of hedgehog-interacting protein (HHIP), a downstream target and a negative regulator of Hh signaling, in Cr(VI)-transformed cells. These findings point to a potential role of Hh signaling in Cr(VI)-induced malignant transformation and lung carcinogenesis. Cr(VI)-transformed cells exhibited DNA hypermethylation and silencing histone marks in the promoter region of HHIP, indicating that an epigenetic mechanism mediates Cr(VI)-induced silencing of HHIP. In addition, the major targets of Hh signaling (GLI1-3 and PTCH1) were significantly increased in Cr(VI)-transformed cells, suggesting an aberrant activation of Hh signaling in these cells. Moreover, ectopically expressing HHIP not only suppressed Hh signaling but also inhibited cell proliferation and anchorage-independent growth in Cr(VI)-transformed cells. In conclusion, these findings establish a novel regulatory mechanism underlying Cr(VI)-induced lung carcinogenesis and provide new insights for developing a better diagnostic and prognostic strategy for Cr(VI)-related human lung cancer. © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email:


Peichao Li, Xiaoru Zhang, Anthony J Murphy, Max Costa, Xiaogang Zhao, Hong Sun. Downregulation of hedgehog-interacting protein (HHIP) contributes to hexavalent chromium-induced malignant transformation of human bronchial epithelial cells. Carcinogenesis. 2021 Feb 11;42(1):136-147

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PMID: 32710611

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