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Tumour Biol. 2017 Jul;39(7):1010428317717655. doi: 10.1177/1010428317717655.

Upregulation of transferrin receptor-1 induces cholangiocarcinoma progression via induction of labile iron pool.

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1 Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand.
2 Cholangiocarcinoma Research Institute, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand.
3 Faculty of Associated Medical Sciences, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand.
4 Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand.
5 Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand.


Labile iron pool is a cellular source of ions available for Fenton reactions resulting in oxidative stress. Living organisms avoid an excess of free irons by a tight control of iron homeostasis. We investigated the altered expression of iron regulatory proteins and iron discrimination in the development of liver fluke-associated cholangiocarcinoma. Additionally, the levels of labile iron pool and the functions of transferrin receptor-1 on cholangiocarcinoma development were also identified. Iron deposition was determined using the Prussian blue staining method in human cholangiocarcinoma tissues. We investigated the alteration of iron regulatory proteins including transferrin, transferrin receptor-1, ferritin, ferroportin, hepcidin, and divalent metal transporter-1 in cholangiocarcinoma tissues using immunohistochemistry. The clinicopathological data of cholangiocarcinoma patients and the expressions of proteins were analyzed. Moreover, the level of intracellular labile iron pool in cholangiocarcinoma cell lines was identified by the RhoNox-1 staining method. We further demonstrated transferrin receptor-1 functions on cell proliferation and migration upon small interfering RNA for human transferrin receptor 1 transfection. Results show that Iron was strongly stained in tumor tissues, whereas negative staining was observed in normal bile ducts of healthy donors. Interestingly, high iron accumulation was significantly correlated with poor prognosis of cholangiocarcinoma patients. The expressions of iron regulatory proteins in human cholangiocarcinoma tissues and normal liver from cadaveric donors revealed that transferrin receptor-1 expression was increased in the cancer cells of cholangiocarcinoma tissues when compared with the adjacent normal bile ducts and was significantly correlated with cholangiocarcinoma metastasis. Labile iron pool level and transferrin receptor-1 expression were significantly increased in KKU-214 and KKU-213 when compared with cholangiocyte cells (MMNK1). Additionally, the suppression of transferrin receptor-1 expression significantly decreased intracellular labile iron pool, cholangiocarcinoma migration, and cell proliferation when compared with control media and control small interfering RNA. In Conclusion, high expression of transferrin receptor-1 resulting in iron uptake contributes to increase in the labile iron pool which plays roles in cholangiocarcinoma progression with aggressive clinical outcomes.


Cholangiocarcinoma; iron regulatory proteins; labile iron pool; oxidative stress; transferrin receptor-1

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