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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e29124. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029124. Epub 2012 Jan 5.

HGF-induced PKCζ activation increases functional CXCR4 expression in human breast cancer cells.

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  • 1Department of Laboratory, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hospital, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China.


The chemokine receptor CXCR4 and its ligand CXCL12 have been shown to mediate the metastasis of many malignant tumors including breast carcinoma. Interaction between hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and the Met receptor tyrosine kinase mediates development and progression of cancers. HGF is able to induce CXCR4 expression and contributes to tumor cell invasiveness in breast carcinoma. However, the mechanism of the CXCR4 expression modulated by c-Met-HGF axis to enhance the metastatic behavior of breast cancer cells is still unclear. In this study, we found that HGF induced functional CXCR4 receptor expression in breast cancer cells. The effect of HGF was specifically mediated by PKCζ activity. After transfection with PKCζ-siRNA, the phosphorylation of PKCζ and CXCR4 was abrogated in breast cancer cells. Interference with the activation of Rac1, a downstream target of HGF, prevented the HGF-induced increase in PKCζ activity and CXCR4 levels. The HGF-induced, LY294002-sensitive translocation of PKCζ from cytosol to plasma membrane indicated that HGF was capable of activating PKCζ, probably via phosphoinositide (PI) 3-kinases. HGF treatment also increased MT1-MMP secretion. Inhibition of PKCζ, Rac-1 and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase may attenuate MT1-MMP expression in cells exposed to HGF. Functional manifestation of the effects of HGF revealed an increased ability for migration, chemotaxis and metastasis in MDA-MB-436 cells in vitro and in vivo. Our findings thus provided evidence that the process of HGF-induced functional CXCR4 expression may involve PI 3-kinase and atypical PKCζ. Moreover, HGF may promote the invasiveness and metastasis of breast tumor xenografts in BALB/c-nu mice via the PKCζ-mediated pathway, while suppression of PKCζ by RNA interference may abrogate cancer cell spreading.

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