STAT3 cooperates with Twist to mediate epithelial-mesenchymal transition in human hepatocellular carcinoma cells

Chuanhai Zhang, Fenglin Guo, Geliang Xu, Jie Ma, Feng Shao
Oncology Reports 2015, 33 (4): 1872-82
Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is critical for the invasion and metastasis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, to date, the association of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) with EMT, and its mediated tumor invasion and metastasis in HCC, remain elusive. We investigated the relationship between STAT3 activation and EMT, and the underlying mechanisms involved in HCC progression. By stable transfection, we successfully overexpressed STAT3 in low metastatic SMMC7721 cells and silenced STAT3 expression in high metastatic MHCC97H cells. The EMT-associated molecular HCC cell changes were analyzed by real-time PCR, western blotting and immunocytochemical methods. The EMT-mediated HCC cell invasion and migration were evaluated by a Transwell cell invasion and cell migration assay, respectively. The interaction between STAT3 and Twist (a key EMT inducer) was evaluated by dual-luciferase reporter assay. In the present study, we found that STAT3 overexpression significantly reduced E-cadherin and β-cadherin, and it enhanced N-cadherin and vimentin expression in the SMMC7721 cells. STAT3 knockdown significantly increased E-cadherin and β-cadherin, and it decreased N-cadherin and vimentin expression in the MHCC97H cells. Meanwhile, a dual-luciferase reporter assay revealed that STAT3 may bind the Twist promoter, mediate its transcriptional activity, and then promote the EMT process in HCC cells. STAT3 activation-mediated EMT also evidently enhanced HCC cell invasion and migration. In summary, the present study demonstrated for the first time that STAT3 may cooperate with Twist to mediate EMT and induce HCC invasion and metastasis. Activated STAT3, Twist, and EMT markers may serve as potential molecular targets in the prevention and/or treatment of HCC invasion and metastasis.

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