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Polo-like kinase 1 as a promising diagnostic biomarker and potential therapeutic target for hepatocellular carcinoma

Hepatocellular carcinoma is a major cause of cancer mortality worldwide. The outcome of hepatocellular carcinoma depends mainly on its early diagnosis. To date, the performance of traditional biomarkers is unsatisfactory. Polo-like kinase 1 is a serine/threonine kinase that plays essential roles in cell cycle progression and deoxyribonucleic acid damage. Moreover, polo-like kinase 1 knockdown decreases the survival of hepatocellular carcinoma cells; therefore, polo-like kinase 1 is an attractive target for anticancer treatments. Nobiletin, a natural polymethoxy flavonoid, exhibits a potential antiproliferative effect against a wide variety of cancers. This study targets to identify a reliable diagnostic biomarker for hepatocellular carcinoma and provide a potential therapeutic target for its treatment. Polo-like kinase 1 levels were analyzed in 44 hepatocellular carcinoma patients, 33 non-hepatocellular carcinoma liver cirrhosis patients and 15 healthy controls using the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay method. Receiver operating characteristics curve analysis was used to establish a predictive model for polo-like kinase 1 relative to α-fetoprotein in hepatocellular carcinoma diagnosis. Furthermore, in the in vitro study, gene expressions were assessed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction in two human hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines after treatment with doxorubicin and polo-like kinase 1 inhibitor volasertib (Vola) either alone or in combination with nobiletin. Cell viability was also determined using the crystal violet assay.: Serum polo-like kinase 1 levels in hepatocellular carcinoma patients were significantly higher than liver cirrhosis and control groups (p < 0.0001). Polo-like kinase 1 showed a reasonable sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value in hepatocellular carcinoma diagnosis. Moreover, nobiletin improved inhibition of cell growth induced by Vola and doxorubicin. Regarding reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction results, nobiletin suppressed expressions of polo-like kinase 1 and proliferating cell nuclear antigen and elevated expressions of P53, poly (ADPribose) polymerase 1, and caspase-3. Nobiletin/doxorubicin and nobiletin/Vola showed a significant increase in caspase-3 activity indicating cell apoptosis. Polo-like kinase 1 may be a potential biomarker for hepatocellular carcinoma diagnosis and follow-up during treatment with chemotherapies. In addition, nobiletin synergistically potentiates the doxorubicin and Vola-mediated anticancer effect that may be attributed partly to suppression of polo-like kinase 1 and proliferating cell nuclear antigen expression and enhancement of chemotherapy-induced apoptosis.

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