Objective Over-expression of the aldo-keto reductase family 1 member C3 (AKR1C3) has been demonstrated in many human cancers. Lipocalin 2 (LCN2) is reported to inhibit cervical cancer metastasis but little is known regarding its relationship with AKR1C3 in the development and progression of uterine cervical cancer. This study aimed to investigate the involvement of AKR1C3 and its relationship with LCN2 in cervical cancer. Methods The roles of AKR1C3 and LCN2 were investigated using the lentivirus shRNA system in SiHa and Caski cervical cancer cells. LCN2 and matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) promoters were constructed to demonstrate transcriptional regulation by shAKR1C3 and shLCN2, respectively. The influences of metastatic phenotypes were analyzed by wound healing, Boyden chamber, and immunofluorescence assays. The activity of MMP-2 was determined by zymography assay. The impacts of AKR1C3 and LCN2 on patient prognosis were evaluated using tissue microarrays by Cox regression and Kaplan-Meier models. Results Silencing of the AKR1C3 gene increased the expression of LCN2 and decreased the migratory and invasive abilities and changed the cytoskeleton of cervical cancer cells. When AKR1C3 was over-expressed, it decreased LCN2 promoter activity and LCN2 expression and increased cell migration. The mRNA level and enzyme activity of MMP-2 increased in silenced LCN2 cells. Positive AKR1C3 and negative LCN2 were correlated with higher recurrence and poorer survival of cervical cancer patients. Conclusions Silencing of AKR1C3 increases LCN2 expression and inhibits metastasis in cervical cancer. Both AKR1C3 and LCN2 serve as molecular targets for cancer therapy to improve the clinical outcome of cervical cancer patients.
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