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Oncogene. 2011 Oct 27;30(43):4410-27. doi: 10.1038/onc.2011.149. Epub 2011 May 2.

HAb18G/CD147 promotes epithelial-mesenchymal transition through TGF-β signaling and is transcriptionally regulated by Slug.

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Cell Engineering Research Centre and Department of Cell Biology, State Key Laboratory of Cancer Biology, Fourth Military Medical University, Xi'an, China.


Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) induced by transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) is implicated in hepatocarcinogenesis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) metastasis. HAb18G/CD147, which belongs to the CD147 family, is an HCC-associated antigen that has a crucial role in tumor invasion and metastasis. The goal of this study was to investigate the role of HAb18G/CD147 during EMT in hepatocarcinogenesis. Human normal hepatic cell lines QZG and L02, primary mouse hepatocytes and nude mouse models were used to determine the role of HAb18G/CD147 in EMT, and the involvement of the TGF-β-driven pathway. A dual-luciferase reporter assay and ChIP were used to investigate the transcriptional regulation of the CD147 gene. Samples from patients with liver disease were assessed to determine the relationship between HAb18G/CD147 and typical markers for EMT. Our results show that upregulation of HAb18G/CD147 is induced by TGF-β coupled with downregulation of E-cadherin and upregulation of N-cadherin and vimentin. The expression of HAb18G/CD147 is controlled by the cell survival PI3K/Akt/GSK3β signaling pathway, and is directly regulated by the transcription factor Slug. Transfection of CD147 also induces an elevated expression of TGF-β. CD147-transfected hepatocytes have mesenchymal phenotypes that accelerate tumor formation and tumor metastasis in vivo. Immunohistochemistry analysis shows a negative correlation between HAb18G/CD147 and E-cadherin expression (r(s)=-0.3622, P=0.0105), and a positive correlation between HAb18G/CD147 and Slug expression (r(s)=0.3064, P=0.0323) in human HCC tissues. Our study uncovers a novel role of HAb18G/CD147 in mediating EMT in the process of HCC progression and showed that CD147 is a Slug target gene in the signaling cascade TGF-β→PI3K/Akt→GSK3β→Snail→Slug→CD147. Our results suggest that CD147 may be a potential target for the treatment and prevention of HCC.

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