Inflammatory CXCL12-CXCR4/CXCR7 axis mediates G-protein signaling pathway to influence the invasion and migration of nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells

This study explored whether the migration, invasion, and apoptosis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) cells were affected by the CXCR4/CXCR7-CXCL12 axis and if this mechanism was related to G-protein signaling pathway. A total of 72 NPC patients admitted in our hospital between April 2013 and February 2015 were incorporated in this study. Immunohistochemistry was performed to compare the expression levels of CXCR4, CXCR7, and CXCL12 between NPC tissues and adjacent normal tissues. Then, the correlation analysis was implemented to assess the association among CXCR4, CXCR7, and CXCL12 expressions. Jellyfish glow protein experiment was carried out after the cultivation of CNE-2Z cell lines in order to observe the intracellular calcium mobilization resulted from G-protein activation contributed by CXCR4/CXCR7-CXCL12 axis. The impact of CXCR4/CXCR7-CXCL12 axis on the migration and invasion of NPC cells was explored using transwell experiments. Finally, the anti-apoptosis effects of CXCR4/CXCR7-CXCL12 axis on NPC cells were investigated by the splicing of poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP). Compared to NPC patients with low-grade (stage I-II) tumor node metastasis (TNM) and those without lymph node metastasis, the expression of CXCR4, CXCR7, and CXCL12 were significantly higher in NPC patients with high-grade (stage III-IV) TNM and those with lymph node metastasis (P < 0.05). Moreover, there was significant positive correlation between the expression level of CXCL12 and CXCR7 (r s = 0.484, P < 0.001) as well as the expression level of CXCL12 and CXCR4 (r s = 0.414, P < 0.001). As suggested by cellular experiments using CNE-2Z, the calcium mobilization degree induced by CXCR4-CXCL12 axis in activating G proteins seemed to be slightly more effective than that induced by CXCR4/CXCR7-CXCL12 axis, while the CXCR7-CXCL12 axis could hardly activate calcium mobilization. Furthermore, the transwell experiment showed that CXCR4/CXCR7-CXCL12 axis could exacerbate the migration and invasion of NPC cells (P < 0.05). The transwell experiment also suggested that the CXCR4/CXCR7-CXCL12 axis was associated with the expression of matrix metallo proteinase 9 (MMP9) which is a substance in the downstream of G-protein pathways (P < 0.05). Results from PARP shear zone also indicated that the CXCR4/CXCR7-CXCL12 axis could suppress NPC cell apoptosis (P < 0.05). The expressional levels of CXCR4, CXCR7, and CXCL12 significantly varied with clinical stages and status of lymph node metastasis of NPC patients. This revealed potential indicators which can be used for NPC prognosis. Additionally, the CXCR4/CXCR7-CXCL12 axis may regulate the expression of downstream proteins (e.g., MMP-9) through the activation of G-protein signaling pathways. These conclusions may provide key evidence for NPC aetiology which can be further investigated to develop novel molecular targets for NPC treatments.

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