Expression of Rab5a in hepatocellular carcinoma: Possible involvement in epidermal growth factor signaling

Hepatol Res. 2007 Nov;37(11):957-65. doi: 10.1111/j.1872-034X.2007.00143.x. Epub 2007 Jun 20.


Aim: The Rab subfamily plays a role in intracellular transport. Rab5a is, in particular, involved in receptor-mediated endocytosis. Epidermal growth factor (EGF) is known to induce cell migration and promote invasion and angiogenesis. The EGF receptor (EGFR) is actively internalized upon the addition of EGF. The aim of the present study was to clarify the expression of Rab5a in hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC) and to examine its effect on EGF signaling.

Methods: The expression of the Rab5a protein in HCC and corresponding non-tumorous tissues from 23 patients with HCC who had undergone surgical resection were analyzed by immunoblotting. A stable transfectant of Rab5a dominant negative (S34N) was established in a human hepatoma cell line, PLC/PRF/5 (PLC/PRF/5/Rab5aDN).

Results: High expression (tumor/non-tumor (T/N) ratios >/= 1) of Rab5a protein in HCC compared to the paired non-tumortissues was recognized in 15 patients (65.2%) of 23 samples. The Rab5a antigen was diffusely expressed in the cytoplasm and membranes of the cancer cells. The membrane-associated Rab5a is also enhanced via overexpression in HCC. The EGF-induced endocytosis of EGFR and the phosphorylation of MAP kinase were inhibited in PLC/PRF/5/Rab5aDN cells. The migration of PLC/PRF/5/Rab5aDN cells induced by EGF was also significantly attenuated.

Conclusions: These results indicate that the overexpression of Rab5a in HCC may play an important role in EGF signaling.