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Biol Open. 2012 Oct 15;1(10):958-64. doi: 10.1242/bio.20121438. Epub 2012 Aug 8.

Spherical cell shape of FLC-4 cell, a human hepatoma cell, enhances hepatocyte-specific function and suppresses tumor phenotype through the integration of mRNA-microRNA interaction.

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  • 1Laboratory of Nutritional Biochemistry, Department of Applied Molecular Biosciences, Nagoya University , Nagoya 464-8601 , Japan.


The induction mechanism of HNF-4α by spherical cell shape in human hepatoma cells, FLC-4, was investigated. To get insight into the induction mechanism of HNF-4α in three-dimensional FLC-4 cells, mRNA microarray analysis was performed. The gene expression related to drug metabolism and nuclear receptors, such as LXRα, was elevated in spherical FLC-4 cells. We found the first time that the expressions of genes related to malignancy of hepatoma cells, such as HIF-1α, c-Myc and VEGFC, were downregulated by spherical cell shape. Network analysis revealed that HNF-4α would elicit both the enhancement of hepatocyte-specific gene expression and suppression of malignancy. Since HNF-4α gene expression was known to be regulated by microRNA, we inferred that spherical cell shape would induce HNF-4α gene expression through microRNA. To investigate the possibility of such a mechanism, mRNA-microRNA interactions were examined using microRNA microarray and bioinformatics analysis. The level of miR-24, a microRNA targeting HNF-4α, was reduced in spherical FLC-4 cells. On the other hand, spherical cell shape-induced miR-194 and miR-320c would directly downregulate SLC7A5 and E2F1 gene expression, respectively, which are both related to malignancy. Our study suggested that spherical cell shape would induce HNF-4α gene expression and consequent enhancement hepatocyte-specific functions. Spherical cell shape itself would suppress malignancy in FLC-4 cells through microRNA, such as miR-194 and miR-320c.


Differentiation; FLC-4; HNF-4; Human hepatoma; Malignancy; MicroRNA

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