Background: Vascular endothelial growth factor-C (VEGF-C) plays an important role during cancer progression and metastasis through activation of VEGF receptors. However, the role of VEGF-C in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) remains unclear.
Methods: The expression of VEGF-C in advanced stages of esophageal cancer was examined by immunohistochemistry and its expression was correlated with the protein level of cortactin (CTTN) by Western blot. Knockdown and overexpression of the CTTN protein were respectively performed to investigate the effects on VEGF-C-enhanced ESCC migration/invasion by in vitro transwell assay, cell tracing assay, and tumor growth/experimental metastasis in animal models.
Results: The expression of VEGF-C was positively correlated with tumor status and poor clinical prognosis in patient with esophageal cancer. VEGF-C-upregulated CTTN expression contributed the migration/invasive abilities of ESCC cell lines through Src-mediated downregulation of miR-326. Moreover, knockdown of CTTN expression significantly abolished VEGF-C-induced tumor growth and experimental lung metastasis in vivo.
Conclusions: Upregulation of CTTN is critical for VEGF-C-mediated tumor growth and metastasis of ESCC. These finding suggest that VEGF-C upregulated CTTN expression through Src-mediated downregulation of miR-326. CTTN may be a crucial mediator of VEGF-C-involved ESCC metastasis, which provides a potential target for diagnosis and individualized treatment in clinical practice.
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