Esophageal cancer is a worldwide health problem with a very poor prognosis. Therefore, new diagnostic biomarkers or therapeutic strategies for identifying and managing esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) are urgently needed. Glucoseregulated protein 94 (GRP94) is one of major endoplasmic reticulum-stress response proteins that plays a key role in cancer progression and therapeutic responses. However, the role of GRP94 in ESCC progression and metastasis remains unclear. The tissue array results indicated that higher GRP94 expression levels were associated with lower overall survival and higher lympho-node metastasis. Silencing GRP94 (GRP94-KD) reduced cell proliferation, migration and invasion in ESCC cells. In a xenotransplantation assay, silencing GRP94 reduced cell proliferation in the zebrafish embryo. Transmission electron microscopy revealed impaired mitochondria in GRP94- KD cells, which exhibited reduced basal respiration, spare respiratory capacity and ATP production and increased oxidative damage compared with scrambled control cells. Regarding the molecular mechanism underlying the effects of GRP94 knockdown, we found that silencing GRP94 may reduce the level of NF-kB, c-Jun, p38, IL-6, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) as well as activation of AKT and ERK. In conclusion, our results indicate that silencing GRP94 in ESCC cells suppressed cancer growth and the metastatic potential via mitochondrial functions and NF-kB/COX-2/VEGF in ESCC cells.
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