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Int J Oncol. 2016 Jul;49(1):305-15. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2016.3506. Epub 2016 May 5.

Slit2 and Robo1 induce opposing effects on metastasis of hepatocellular carcinoma Sk-hep-1 cells.

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State Key Laboratory of Cellular Stress Biology, School of Life Sciences, Xiamen University, Xiamen, Fujian, P.R. China.
The First Affiliated Hospital of Xiamen University, Xiamen, Fujian, P.R. China.


The neural guidance molecular, Slit2, and its cognate receptor, Robo1, play critical roles in the development of the nervous system, nevertheless, their functions are not limited to this system. Numerous studies have shown decreased Slit2 expression in a wide variety of cancers, highlighting its potential as a tumor suppressor. However, the Slit2/Robo1 signaling axis was reported to induce either suppressive or stimulatory effects on tumor growth and metastasis, depending on cellular context. There is a paucity of information on the effects of the Slit2/Robo1 signaling axis on the growth and metastasis of human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Large-scale data mining of the Oncomine database has revealed heterogeneous expression of Slit2 in HCC. We screened the Sk-hep-1, a cell line showing a relatively high level of Slit2, and low level of Robo1 expression. After Slit2 knockdown and Robo1 overexpression in these cells, we found Slit2 and Robo1 exerted opposing effects on tumor growth and metastasis both in in vitro and in vivo models. Slit2 knockdown and Robo1 overexpression in Sk-hep-1 cells promoted tumor growth and metastasis, suggesting a negative and positive role for Slit2 and Robo1, respectively, in tumor progression. Robo1 overexpression upregulated matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)2, -9 and membrane-type1 MMP (MT1-MMP) expression, stimulated MMP2, but not MMP9 activation, and downregulated expression of TIMP1 and 2. The PI3K/Akt signaling pathway is of importance in regulating MMP2 expression in Sk-hep-1 cells, since Robo1 overexpression stimulated phosphorylation of Akt while the PI3K inhibitor LY294002, significantly inhibited the upregulation of MMP2 and also the enhanced cell invasion induced by Robo1 overexpression. We postulate that Robo1 promotes tumor invasion partly by the upregulation of MMP2 after activation of PI3K/Akt signaling pathway. Notably, Slit2 knockdown caused the upregulation of Robo1 expression both at the mRNA and protein levels. Thus, the stimulatory effects of Slit2 knockdown on tumor progression can be ascribed, at least in part, to the upregulation of Robo1 and its positive role in tumor progression.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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