HOXB13 promotes gastric cancer cell migration and invasion via IGF-1R upregulation and subsequent activation of PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling pathway

Chengming Guo, Hongjin Chu, Zhaohua Gong, Bo Zhang, Chen Li, Jian Chen, Liuye Huang
Life Sciences 2021 April 21, : 119522

AIMS: This study aimed at exploring HOXB13 expression and function in gastric cancer (GC), and the underlying molecular mechanism.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: HOXB13 and fat mass and obesity-associated protein (FTO) expression in GC and non-GC tissues of GC patients were analyzed using Gene Expression Profiling Interactive Analysis (GEPIA) and verified by quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) and western blotting. The regulatory relationship between FTO and HOXB13 was verified via RT-qPCR, methylated RNA immunoprecipitation sequencing (MeRIP-seq), and double luciferase reporter gene assay. The effects of HOXB13 and FTO on proliferation, invasion, and migration of GC cells were studied using EdU and Transwell assays.

KEY FINDINGS: HOXB13 and FTO expression was abnormally high in GC tissues and cell lines, with no significant correlation between HOXB13 and FTO expression and the prognosis of GC patients. Inhibiting FTO expression in GC cells decreased HOXB13 methylation and upregulated HOXB13 expression. Inhibiting HOXB13 and FTO expression suppressed GC cell proliferation, migration, and invasion. Decreased HOXB13 expression suppressed PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling pathway activity, while atypical HOXB13 expression promoted it. A probable downstream target of HOXB13 was insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF-1R); a decrease in IGF-1R relieved GC cell migration, invasion, and proliferation and inhibited PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling pathway activity promoted by atypical HOXB13 expression.

SIGNIFICANCE: HOXB13 and FTO expression is elevated in GC. FTO suppresses HOXB13 methylation; FTO and HOXB13 expression promotes GC cell proliferation, migration, and invasion. HOXB13 expression intensifies GC invasion through PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling via IGF-1R. HOXB13 and associated signaling pathways can be effective targets for GC therapy.

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