Targeting the Epigenetic Non-Coding RNA MALAT1/Wnt Signaling Axis as a Therapeutic Approach to Suppress Stemness and Metastasis in Hepatocellular Carcinoma

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: With recorded under-performance of current standard therapeutic strategies as highlighted by high rates of post-treatment (resection or local ablation) recurrence, resistance to chemotherapy, poor overall survival, and an increasing global incidence, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) constitutes a medical challenge. Accumulating evidence implicates the presence of HCC stem cells (HCC-SCs) in HCC development, drug-resistance, recurrence, and progression. Therefore, treatment strategies targeting both HCC-SCs and non-CSCs are essential. METHODS: Recently, there has been an increasing suggestion of MALAT1 oncogenic activity in HCC; however, its role in HCC stemness remains unexplored. Herein, we investigated the probable role of MALAT1 in the SCs-like phenotype of HCC and explored likely molecular mechanisms by which MALAT1 modulates HCC-SCs-like and metastatic phenotypes. RESULTS: We showed that relative to normal, cirrhotic, or dysplastic liver conditions, MALAT1 was aberrantly expressed in HCC, similar to its overexpression in Huh7, Mahlavu, and SK-Hep1 HCC cells lines, compared to the normal liver cell line THLE-2. We also demonstrated a positive correlation between MALAT1 expression and poor cell differentiation status in HCC using RNAscope. Interestingly, we demonstrated that shRNA-mediated silencing of MALAT1 concomitantly downregulated the expression levels of β-catenin, Stat3, c-Myc, CK19, vimentin, and Twist1 proteins, inhibited HCC oncogenicity, and significantly suppressed the HCC-SCs-related dye-effluxing potential of HCC cells and reduced their ALDH-1 activity, partially due to inhibited MALAT1-β-catenin interaction. Additionally, using TOP/FOP (TCL/LEF-Firefly luciferase) Flash, RT-PCR, and western blot assays, we showed that silencing MALAT1 downregulates β-catenin expression, dysregulates the canonical Wnt signaling pathway, and consequently attenuates HCC tumorsphere formation efficiency, with concurrent reduction in CD133+ and CD90+ HCC cell population, and inhibits tumor growth in SK-Hep1-bearing mice. Conclusions: Taken together, our data indicate that MALAT1/Wnt is a targetable molecular candidate, and the therapeutic targeting of MALAT1/Wnt may constitute a novel promising anticancer strategy for HCC treatment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCells
Volume9
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 20 2020

Keywords

  • cancer recurrence
  • drug resistance
  • HCC-SCs
  • LncRNA MALAT1
  • tumorspheres

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