Background: We have previously demonstrated that peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPARγ) activation inhibits hepatocarcinogenesis. We aim to investigate the effect of PPARγ on hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) metastatic potential and explore its underlying mechanisms.
Methods: Human HCC cells (MHCC97L, BEL-7404) were infected with adenovirus-expressing PPARγ (Ad-PPARγ) or Ad-lacZ and treated with or without PPARγ agonist (rosiglitazone). The effects of PPARγ on cell migration and invasive activity were determined by wound healing assay and Matrigel invasive model in vitro, and in an orthotopic liver tumour metastatic model in mice.
Results: Pronounced expression of PPARγ was demonstrated in HCC cells (MHCC97L, BEL-7404) treated with Ad-PPARγ, rosiglitazone or Ad-PPARγ plus rosiglitazone, compared with control (Ad-LacZ). Such induction markedly suppressed HCC cell migration. Moreover, the invasiveness of MHCC97L and BEL-7404 cells infected with Ad-PPARγ, or treated with rosiglitazone was significantly diminished up to 60%. Combination of Ad-PPARγ and rosiglitazone showed an additive effect. Activation of PPARγ by rosiglitazone significantly reduced the incidence and severity of lung metastasis in an orthotopic HCC mouse model. Key mechanisms underlying the effect of PPARγ in HCC include upregulation of cell adhesion genes, E-cadherin and SYK (spleen tyrosine kinase), extracellular matrix regulator tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinase (TIMP) 3, tumour suppressor gene retinoblastoma 1, and downregulation of pro-metastatic genes MMP9 (matrix metallopeptidase 9), MMP13, HPSE (heparanase), and Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). Direct transcriptional regulation of TIMP3, MMP9, MMP13, and HPSE by PPARγ was shown by ChIP-PCR.
Conclusion: Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma exerts an inhibitory effect on the invasive and metastatic potential of HCC in vitro and in vivo, and is thus, a target for the prevention and treatment of HCC metastases.