Lutasa, Maria U. and Salis, Fabiana and Urtasun, Raquel and Garcia-Irigoyen, Oihane and Elizalde, María and Uriarte, Iker and Santamaria, Monica and Feo, Francesco and Pascale, Rosa Maria and Prieto, Jesús and Berasain, Carmen and Avila, Matías A. (2012) Regulation of Amphiregulin gene expression by ß-catenin signaling in human Hepatocellular carcinoma cells: a novel crosstalk between FGF19 and the EGFR system. PLoS One, Vol. 7 (12), e52711. eISSN 1932-6203. Article.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most prevalent liver tumor and a deadly disease with limited therapeutic options. Dysregulation of cell signaling pathways is a common denominator in tumorigenesis, including hepatocarcinogenesis. The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling system is commonly activated in HCC, and is currently being evaluated as a therapeutic target in combination therapies. We and others have identified a central role for the EGFR ligand amphiregulin (AR) in the proliferation, survival and drug resistance of HCC cells. AR expression is frequently up-regulated in HCC tissues and cells through mechanisms not completely known. Here we identify the ß-catenin signaling pathway as a novel mechanism leading to transcriptional activation of the AR gene in human HCC cells. Activation of ß-catenin signaling, or expression of the T41A ß-catenin active mutant, led to the induction of AR expression involving three specific ß-catenin-Tcf responsive elements in its proximal promoter. We demonstrate that HCC cells expressing the T41A ß-catenin active mutant show enhanced proliferation that is dependent in part on AR expression and EGFR signaling. We also demonstrate here a novel cross-talk of the EGFR system with fibroblast growth factor 19 (FGF19). FGF19 is a recently identified driver gene in hepatocarcinogenesis and an activator of ß-catenin signaling in HCC and colon cancer cells. We show that FGF19 induced AR gene expression through the ß-catenin pathway in human HCC cells. Importantly, AR up-regulation and EGFR signaling participated in the induction of cyclin D1 and cell proliferation elicited by FGF19. Finally, we demonstrate a positive correlation between FGF19 and AR expression in human HCC tissues, therefore supporting in clinical samples our experimental observations. These findings identify the AR/EGFR system as a key mediator of FGF19 responses in HCC cells involving ß-catenin signaling, and suggest that combined targeting of FGF19 and AR/EGFR may enhance therapeutic efficacy.
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