Most cases of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) arise with the fibrotic microenvironment where hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) and carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are critical components in HCC progression. Therefore, CAF normalization could be a feasible therapy for HCC. Galectin-1 (Gal-1), a β-galactoside-binding lectin, is critical for HSC activation and liver fibrosis. However, few studies has evaluated the pathological role of Gal-1 in HCC stroma and its role in hepatic CAF is unclear. Here we showed that Gal-1 mainly expressed in HCC stroma, but not cancer cells. High expression of Gal-1 is correlated with CAF markers and poor prognoses of HCC patients. In co-culture systems, targeting Gal-1 in CAFs or HSCs, using small hairpin (sh)RNAs or an therapeutic inhibitor (LLS30), downregulated plasminogen activator inhibitor-2 (PAI-2) production which suppressed cancer stem-like cell properties and invasion ability of HCC in a paracrine manner. The Gal-1-targeting effect was mediated by increased a disintegrin and metalloprotease 17 (ADAM17)-dependent TNF-receptor 1 (TNFR1) shedding/cleavage which inhibited the TNF-α → JNK → c-Jun/ATF2 signaling axis of pro-inflammatory gene transcription. Silencing Gal-1 in CAFs inhibited CAF-augmented HCC progression and reprogrammed the CAF-mediated inflammatory responses in a co-injection xenograft model. Taken together, the findings uncover a crucial role of Gal-1 in CAFs that orchestrates an inflammatory CSC niche supporting HCC progression and demonstrate that targeting Gal-1 could be a potential therapy for fibrosis-related HCC.
|Publication status||E-pub ahead of print - Apr 22 2022|