Transcriptional intermediary factor 1 gamma (TIF1γ) may play either a potential tumor-suppressor or -promoter role in cancer. Here we report on a critical role of TIF1γ in the progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Reduced expression of TIF1γ was detected in HCC, especially in advanced HCC tissues, compared to adjacent noncancerous tissues. HCC patients with low TIF1γ expression had shorter overall survival times and higher recurrence rates than those with high TIF1γ expression. Reduced TIF1γ expression was an independent and significant risk factor for recurrence and survival after curative resection. In HCC cells, TIF1γ played a dual role: It promoted tumor growth in early-stage HCC, but not in advanced-stage HCC, whereas it inhibited invasion and metastasis in both early- and advanced-stage HCC. Mechanistically, we confirmed that TIF1γ inhibited transforming growth factor-β/ Drosophila mothers against decapentaplegic protein (TGF-β/Smad) signaling through monoubiquitination of Smad4 and suppressed the formation of Smad2/3/4 complex in HCC cells. TGF-β-inducing cytostasis and metastasis were both inhibited by TIF1γ in HCC. We further proved that TIF1γ suppressed cyotstasis-related TGF-β/Smad downstream c-myc down-regulation, as well as p21/cip1 and p15/ink4b up-regulation in early-stage HCC. Meanwhile, TGF-β inducible epithelial-mesenchymal transition and TGF-β/Smad downstream metastatic cascades, including phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome ten down-regulation, chemokine (CXC motif) receptor 4 and matrix metalloproteinase 1 induction, and epidermal growth factor receptor- and protein kinase B-signaling transactivation, were inhibited by TIF1γ. In addition, we found that the down-regulation of TIF1γ in HCC was caused by hypermethylation of CpG islands in the TIF1γ promoter, and demonstrated that the combination of TIF1γ and phosphorylated Smad2 was a more powerful predictor of poor prognosis.
Conclusion: TIF1γ regulates tumor growth and metastasis through inhibition of TGF-β/Smad signaling and may serve as a novel prognostic biomarker in HCC.
© 2014 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.