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Metformin induces apoptosis of human hepatocellular carcinoma HepG2 cells by activating an AMPK/p53/miR-23a/FOXA1 pathway

Authors Sun Y, Tao C, Huang X, He H, Shi H, Zhang Q, Wu H

Received 3 November 2015

Accepted for publication 14 March 2016

Published 12 May 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 2845—2853


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Nitin Kumar Agarwal

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Dr Faris Farassati

Yunpeng Sun,1 Chonglin Tao,1 Xiaming Huang,1 Han He,1 Hongqi Shi,1 Qiyu Zhang,1 Huanhuan Wu2

1Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, 2Department of Infectious Disease, The First Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University, Wenzhou, People’s Republic of China

Abstract: The antidiabetic drug metformin has been shown to possess antitumor functions in many types of cancers. Although studies have revealed its beneficial effects on the prognosis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the detailed molecular mechanism underlying this event remains largely unknown. In this work, we showed that miR-23a was significantly induced upon metformin treatment; inhibition of miR-23a abrogated the proapoptotic effect of metformin in HepG2 cells. We next established forkhead box protein A1 (FOXA1) as the functional target of miR-23a, and silencing FOXA1 mimicked the effect of metformin. Moreover, the phosphorylation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and the expression of p53 were increased upon metformin treatment, and the inhibition of p53 abrogated the induction of miR-23a by metformin, suggesting that AMPK/p53 signaling axis is responsible for the induction of miR-23a by metformin. In summary, we unraveled a novel AMPK/p53/miR-23a/FOXA1 axis in the regulation of apoptosis in HCC, and the application of metformin could, therefore, be effective in the treatment of HCC.

Keywords: metformin, miR-23a, FOXA1, p53, apoptosis

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