Background: Survivin is an antiapoptotic molecule that is widely expressed in cancers, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Survivin has become a general therapeutic target for cancers because of its selective overexpression in a majority of tumors. However, little is known regarding the effect of survivin expression in combination with gemcitabine on HCC. Methods: We generated survivin knockdown cells (survivin-KD) via a short interfering RNA (siRNA) technique. The antiproliferation effects of gemcitabine were determined by MTT (3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide) assay, TUNEL (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick-end labeling) assay, and cell cycle evaluation. Results: According to the MTT assay, we found that survivin-KD cells were more sensitive than parental cells and scrambled control cells to gemcitabine treatment. The apoptotic cell population increased in survivin-KD cells that were treated with gemcitabine in comparison to scrambled control cells, as observed by the cell cycle distribution and TUNEL assays. We found that survivin knockdown resulted in a reduction of glucose-regulated protein 78 (GRP78), which may be responsible for the observed increased survivin-KD cell sensitivity to gemcitabine. Conclusions: We conclude that survivin knockdown may contribute to a therapeutic effect of gemcitabine through GRP78 on HCC cells.
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