Niemann-Pick type C2 protein regulates liver cancer progression via modulating ERK1/2 pathway: Clinicopathological correlations and therapeutical implications

Yi Jen Liao, Cheng Chieh Fang, Chia Hung Yen, Shih Ming Hsu, Chung Kwe Wang, Shiu Feng Huang, Yu Chih Liang, Ying Yu Lin, Yu Tseng Chu, Yi Ming Arthur Chen

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Primary hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common malignancy worldwide and the third leading cause of cancer-related death. It is important to identify new targets for early diagnosis and treatment of HCC. Niemann-Pick type C2 (NPC2) plays an important role in the regulation of intracellular cholesterol homeostasis via direct binding with free cholesterol. However, little is known about the significance of NPC2 in HCC tumorigenesis. In this study, we showed that NPC2 is abundantly expressed in normal liver, but is downregulated in human HCC tissues. The patients with NPC2 downregulation expressed much higher α-fetoprotein, multiple tumor type, vascular invasion, later pathological stage and shorter survival rate. Knockdown NPC2 in liver cancer cell lines promote cell proliferation, migration and xenograft tumorigenesis. In contrast, NPC2 overexpression inhibits HuH7 promoted tumor growth. Furthermore, administration of hepatotropic adeno-associated virus 8 (AAV8) delivered NPC2 decreased the inflammatory infiltration, the expression of two early HCC markers - glypican 3 and survivin and suppressed the spontaneous HCC development in mice. To identify the NPC2-dependent mechanism, we emphasized on the status of MAPK/ERK signaling. MEK1/2 inhibitor treatment demonstrated that the expression of NPC2 affected the activation of ERK1/2 but not MEK1/2. In addition, cholesterol trafficking inhibitor treatment did not alter the cell proliferation and the activation of MEK/ERK. In conclusion, our study demonstrates that NPC2 may play an important role in negatively regulate cell proliferation and ERK1/2 activation that were independent of cholesterol accumulation. AAV-NPC2 may thus represent a new treatment strategy for liver cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1341-1351
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2015



  • Adeno-associated virus 8
  • ERK1/2
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Niemann-Pick type C2
  • proliferation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology
  • Medicine(all)

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