Changes in Wnt and TGF-beta Signaling Mediate the Development of Regorafenib Resistance in Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cell Line HuH7


Karabicici M., Azbazdar Y., Ozhan G., Şentürk Ş., Firtina Karagonlar Z., Erdal E.

FRONTIERS IN CELL AND DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY, vol.09, 2021 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 09
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.3389/fcell.2021.639779
  • Journal Name: FRONTIERS IN CELL AND DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, BIOSIS, EMBASE, Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma, regorafenib, Wnt/beta-catenin, TGF beta, resistance, GROWTH-FACTOR-BETA, TRANSFORMING GROWTH-FACTOR-BETA-1, 1ST-LINE TREATMENT, CANCER, LENVATINIB, SORAFENIB, BLOCKADE, EFFICACY, THERAPY, MARKER
  • Dokuz Eylül University Affiliated: Yes

Abstract

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is an aggressive, chemo resistant neoplasm with poor prognosis and limited treatment options. Exploring activated pathways upon drug treatment can be used to discover more effective anticancer agents to overcome therapy resistance and enhance therapeutic outcomes for patients with advanced HCC. Human tumor-derived cell lines recapitulate HCC diversity and are widely used for studying mechanisms that drive drug resistance in HCC. In this study, we show that regorafenib treatment activates Wnt/beta-catenin signaling only in hepatoblast-like HCC cell lines and induces enrichment of markers associated with hepatic stem/progenitor cells. Moreover, activation of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling via Wnt3a/R-Spo1 treatment protects these cells from regorafenib induced apoptosis. On the other hand, regorafenib resistant cells established by long-term regorafenib treatment demonstrate diminished Wnt/beta-catenin signaling activity while TGF-beta signaling activity of these cells is significantly enhanced. Regorafenib resistant cells (RRCs) also show increased expression of several mesenchymal genes along with an induction of CD24 and CD133 cancer stem cell markers. Moreover, regorafenib resistant cells also exhibit significantly augmented in vitro and in vivo migration capacity which could be reversed by TGF-beta type 1 receptor (TGFb -R1) inhibition. When combined with regorafenib treatment, TGF beta-R1 inhibition also significantly decreased colony formation ability and augmented cell death in resistant spheroids. Importantly, when we knocked down TGF beta-R1 using a lentiviral plasmid, regorafenib resistant cells entered senescence indicating that this pathway is important for their survival. Treatment of RRCs with TGF beta-R1 inhibitor and regorafenib significantly abolished pSTAT3, pSMAD2 and pERK (44/42) expression suggesting the involvement of both canonical and non-canonical pathways. In conclusion, our data suggest that HCC tumors with aberrant activation in the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway, might have higher intrinsic regorafenib resistance and the inhibition of this pathway along with regorafenib administration might increase regorafenib-induced cell death in combinational therapies. However, to resolve acquired regorafenib resistance developed in HCC patients, the combined use of TGF-beta pathway inhibitors and Regorafenib constitute a promising approach that can increase regorafenib sensitization and prevent tumor recurrence.