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AZGP1 suppresses epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and hepatic carcinogenesis by blocking TGFβ1-ERK2 pathways

Zinc-α2-glycoprotein 1 (AZGP1) has been found to play important roles in TGF-β1 induced epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). However, the mechanisms of AZGP1 inhibiting EMT and its therapeutic potential remain unknown in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). AZGP1, TGF-β1 or ERK2 expressions were examined in liver tissues of HCC patients and rat model. The effect of AZGP1 on EMT and crosstalking of TGFβ1-ERK2 signaling in human hepatic cancer cell was tested in vitro and in vivo. Hepatic expression of AZGP1 was nearly deficient in HCC patients and rats. It was proved that AZGP1 has the ability of down-regulating mesenchymal markers, up-regulating epithelial marker, inhibiting cell invasion and suppressing EMT in human HCC cells. The results clarified that AZGP1 has the effect on blocking TGF-β1 mediated ERK2 phosphorylation leading to depressing EMT and invasive potential in vitro. Local injection of AZGP1 mimic in vivo could significantly withhold lung metastasis in HCC. In conclusion, loss of AZGP1 could trigger EMT induced by TGFβ1-ERK2 signaling, confuse in energy metabolism, reduce cell proliferation and apoptosis, activate survival signals and promote invasion. Up-regulation of AZGP1 should be proposed to reverse EMT and might be a new promising therapy for HCC.

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