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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35754. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035754. Epub 2012 Apr 23.

Cyr61/CCN1 is regulated by Wnt/β-catenin signaling and plays an important role in the progression of hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Department of Clinical Hematology, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing, China.


Abnormal activation of the canonical Wnt signaling pathway has been implicated in carcinogenesis. Transcription of Wnt target genes is regulated by nuclear β-catenin, whose over-expression is observed in Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC) tissue. Cyr61, a member of the CCN complex family of multifunctional proteins, is also found over-expressed in many types of tumor and plays dramatically different roles in tumorigenesis. In this study, we investigated the relationship between Cyr61 and β-catenin in HCC. We found that while Cyr61 protein was not expressed at a detectable level in the liver tissue of healthy individuals, its expression level was elevated in the HCC and HCC adjacent tissues and was markedly increased in cancer-adjacent hepatic cirrhosis tissue. Over-expression of Cyr61 was positively correlated with increased levels of β-catenin in human HCC samples. Activation of β-catenin signaling elevated the mRNA level of Cyr61 in HepG2 cells, while inhibition of β-catenin signaling reduced both mRNA and protein levels of Cyr61. We identified two TCF4-binding elements in the promoter region of human Cyr61 gene and demonstrated that β-catenin/TCF4 complex specifically bound to the Cyr61 promoter in vivo and directly regulated its promoter activity. Furthermore, we found that over-expression of Cyr61 in HepG2 cells promoted the progression of HCC xenografts in SCID mice. These findings indicate that Cyr61 is a direct target of β-catenin signaling in HCC and may play an important role in the progression of HCC.

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