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SPAG9 is involved in hepatocarcinoma cell migration and invasion via modulation of ELK1 expression

Authors Yan Q, Lou G, Qian Y, Qin B, Xu X, Wang Y, Liu Y, Dong X

Received 20 October 2015

Accepted for publication 3 December 2015

Published 1 March 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 1067—1075


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Ram Prasad

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Daniele Santini

Qiuyue Yan,1,2 Guohua Lou,3 Ying Qian,1 Bo Qin,1 Xiuping Xu,1,2 Yanan Wang,1,2 Yanning Liu,3 Xuejun Dong1

1Shaoxing People’s Hospital, Shaoxing Hospital Zhejiang University, Shaoxing, Zhejiang, 2The Key Laboratory of Laboratory Medicine, Ministry of Education of China, School of Laboratory Medicine and Life Science, Wenzhou Medical University, Wenzhou, 3State Key Laboratory for Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, Collaborative Innovation Center for Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, The First Affiliated Hospital, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, People’s Republic of China

Background: Sperm-associated antigen 9 (SPAG9) is upregulated in several malignancies and its overexpression is positively correlated with cancer cell malignancies. However, the specific biological roles of SPAG9 in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are less understood.
Methods: We analyzed SPAG9 and ETS-like gene 1, tyrosine kinase (ELK1) expression in 50 paired HCC specimens and adjacent noncancerous liver specimens using immunohistochemistry. SPAG9 small interfering RNA (siRNA) was used to knockdown SPAG9 expression in HCCLM3 and HuH7 cell lines. We used plasmids to upregulate ELK1 expression and siRNA to downregulate ELK1 expression in HuH7 cells. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction and Western blot were used to evaluate the expression of SPAG9 and ELK1 at the mRNA and protein level, respectively. Wound healing, matrigel migration, and invasion analyses were performed to determine the effect of SPAG9 and ELK1 on HCC metastasis.
Results: SPAG9 and ELK1 were overexpressed in HCC tissue specimens and their expressions were higher in HCCLM3 and HuH7 cells compared to the low-metastatic HepG2 cells. Overexpression of SPAG9 was positively associated with tumor-node-metastasis staging (P=0.032), metastasis parameters (P=0.018) of HCC patients, and ELK1 expression (r=0.422, P<0.001) in HCC tissue specimens. In addition, knockdown of SPAG9 in HCCLM3 and HuH7 cells using siRNA significantly suppressed cell migration and invasion. Furthermore, we observed inhibition of ELK1 expression and p38 signaling. However, ELK1 overexpression reversed the inhibitory effects of SPAG9 siRNA on HCC cell metastasis and ELK1 depletion inhibited HuH7 cell migration and invasion.
SPAG9 overexpression was positively correlated with HCC metastasis and SPAG9-induced migration and invasion were partially dependent on ELK1 expression in HCC cell lines. These results suggest that SPAG9 may be a potential anti-metastasis target effective in HCC therapy.

SPAG9, ELK1, hepatocellular carcinoma, metastasis

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