: Elevated activity of sterol regulatory element-binding protein 1 (SREBP1) has been implicated in the tumorigenesis of different cancer types. However, the functional roles of SREBP1 in esophageal cancer are not well appreciated. Here, we aimed to investigate the therapeutic potential of SREBP1 and associated signaling in esophageal cancer. Our initial bioinformatics analyses showed that SREBP1 expression was overexpressed in esophageal tumors and correlated with a significantly lower overall survival rate in patients. Additionally, tumor suppressor miR-142-5p was predicted to target SREBP1/ZEB1 and a lower miR-142-5p was correlated with poor prognosis. We then performed in vitro experiments and showed that overexpressing SREBP1 in OE33 cell line led to increased abilities of colony formation, migration, and invasion; the opposite was observed in SREBP1-silenced OE21cells and SREBP1-silencing was accompanied by the reduced mesenchymal markers, including vimentin (Vim) and ZEB1, while E-cadherin and tumor suppressor miR-142-5p were increased. Subsequently, we first demonstrated that both SREBP1 and ZEB1 were potential targets of miR-142-5p, followed by the examination of the regulatory circuit of miR-142-5p and SREBP1/ZEB1. We observed that increased miR-142-5p level led to the reduced tumorigenic properties, such as migration and tumor sphere formation, and both observations were accompanied by the reduction of ZEB1 and SREBP1, and increase of E-cadherin. We then explored the potential therapeutic agent targeting SREBP1-associated signaling by testing fatostatin (4-hydroxytamoxifen, an active metabolite of tamoxifen). We found that fatostatin suppressed the cell viability of OE21 and OE33 cells and tumor spheres. Interestingly, fatostatin treatment reduced CD133+ population in both OE21 and OE33 cells in concert of increased miR-142-5p level. Finally, we evaluated the efficacy of fatostatin using a xenograft mouse model. Mice treated with fatostatin showed a significantly lower tumor burden and better survival rate as compared to their control counterparts. The treatment of fatostatin resulted in the reduced staining of SREBP1, ZEB1, and Vim, while E-cadherin and miR-142-5p were increased. In summary, we showed that increased SREBP1 and reduced miR-142-5p were associated with increased tumorigenic properties of esophageal cancer cells and poor prognosis. Preclinical tests showed that suppression of SREBP1 using fatostatin led to the reduced malignant phenotype of esophageal cancer via the reduction of EMT markers and increased tumor suppressor, miR-142-5p. Further investigation is warranted for the clinical use of fatostatin for the treatment of esophageal malignancy.
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