JOURNAL ARTICLE

Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 is a major kinase-independent target of sorafenib in hepatocellular carcinoma

Wei-Tien Tai, Ann-Lii Cheng, Chung-Wai Shiau, Hsiang-Po Huang, Jui-Wen Huang, Pei-Jer Chen, Kuen-Feng Chen
Journal of Hepatology 2011, 55 (5): 1041-8
21354226

BACKGROUND & AIMS: Recently, we reported that sorafenib sensitizes hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells to TRAIL through the inhibition of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3). Here, we report that sorafenib inhibits HCC via a kinase-independent mechanism: SHP-1 dependent STAT3 inactivation.

METHODS: SC-1 is a sorafenib derivative that closely resembles sorafenib structurally but with no kinase inhibition activity. HCC cell lines (PLC5, Huh-7, Hep3B, and Sk-Hep1) were treated with sorafenib or SC-1 and apoptosis and signal transduction were analyzed. In vivo efficacy was determined in nude mice with Huh-7 xenografts.

RESULTS: SC-1 showed similar effects to sorafenib on growth inhibition and apoptosis in all tested HCC cell lines. SC-1 down-regulated phosphorylation of phospho-STAT3 (p-STAT3) at tyrosine 705 in all tested HCC cells. Expression of STAT3-driven genes, including Cyclin D1 and Survivin, was also repressed by SC-1. Luciferase reporter assay confirmed the inhibition of transcriptional activity of STAT3 in both sorafenib-treated and SC-1-treated cells. Ectopic expression of STAT3 in PLC5 cells abolished apoptosis in SC-1-treated cells. Sorafenib and SC-1 up-regulated SHP-1 activity. Knockdown of SHP-1, but not SHP-2 or PTP-1B, by small interference RNA reduced apoptosis induced by SC-1. Finally, SC-1 reduced Huh-7 tumor growth significantly in vivo, which was associated with down-regulation of p-STAT3 and up-regulation of SHP-1 activity.

CONCLUSIONS: STAT3 is a major kinase-independent target of sorafenib in HCC.

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