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Effect of Over-Expression of Zinc-Finger Protein (ZFX) on Self-Renewal and Drug-Resistance of Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Shuhong Zhang, Ronghua Shu, Meng Yue, Shuhong Zhang

Department of Gastroenterology, Jinan Central Hospital Affiliated to Shandong University, Jinan, Shandong, China (mainland)

Med Sci Monit 2016; 22:3025-3034

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.897699

Available online:

Published: 2016-08-27

BACKGROUND: X-chromosome-coupled zinc finger protein (ZFX) in the Zfy protein family is abundantly expressed in both embryonic and hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). ZFX exist in various tumor cells and is correlated with proliferation and survival of tumor cells. As a malignant tumor with high invasiveness, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) may present resistance against chemotherapy and features of stem cells. This study aimed to explore the expression of ZFX in HCC cells, in an attempt to illustrate the role of ZFX in tumorigenesis.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: The expression of ZFX in tumor tissues was quantified by RT-PCR. The ZFX expression was then silenced to evaluate the stem cell-like features of HCC cells, including self-renewal, colony formation, and cell cycle, along with the sensitivity to cisplatin. Xenograft of ZFX-overexpressed HCC on nude mice was performed to evaluate the in vivo effect of ZFX on tumor growth.
RESULTS: Quantitative RT-PCR showed over-expression of ZFX in 51.8% of HCC tumors. The silencing of ZFX gene inhibited the self-renewal, colony formation, and proliferation ability of HCC cells (p<0.05 in all cases) via the cell cycle arrest at G0/G1 phase, in addition to the elevated sensitivity of tumor cells to cisplatin (p<0.001). Further studies showed that binding between ZFX and promoter regions of Nanog or SOX-2 regulatory factor initiate their expression in HCC cells. The xenograft experiment indicated the potentiation of tumor growth by ZFX over-expression.
CONCLUSIONS: ZFX is over-expressed in HCC cells, and correlates with stem cell-like features and pleiotropic characteristics.

Keywords: Carcinoma, Hepatocellular - pathology, Apoptosis - physiology, Animals, Cell Cycle - physiology, Cell Cycle Checkpoints - physiology, Cell Line, Tumor, Cell Movement - physiology, Cell Proliferation - physiology, Drug Resistance, Neoplasm, Hematopoietic Stem Cells - metabolism, Heterografts, Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors - metabolism, Liver Neoplasms - pathology, Mice, Mice, Nude, Signal Transduction, Zinc Fingers