Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third most common cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide. We previously showed that a tumor/cancer stem cell (CSC) marker, doublecortin-like kinase (DCLK1) positively regulates hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication, and promotes tumor growth in colon and pancreas. Here, we employed transcriptome analysis, RNA interference, tumor xenografts, patient's liver tissues and hepatospheroids to investigate DCLK1-regulated inflammation and tumorigenesis in the liver. Our studies unveiled novel DCLK1-controlled feed-forward signaling cascades involving calprotectin subunit S100A9 and NFκB activation as a driver of inflammation. Validation of transcriptome data suggests that DCLK1 co-expression with HCV induces BRM/SMARCA2 of SW1/SNF1 chromatin remodeling complexes. Frequently observed lymphoid aggregates including hepatic epithelial and stromal cells of internodular septa extensively express DCLK1 and S100A9. The DCLK1 overexpression also correlates with increased levels of S100A9, c-Myc, and BRM levels in HCV/HBV-positive patients with cirrhosis and HCC. DCLK1 silencing inhibits S100A9 expression and hepatoma cell migration. Normal human hepatocytes (NHH)-derived spheroids exhibit CSC properties. These results provide new insights into the molecular mechanism of the hepatitis B/C-virus induced liver inflammation and tumorigenesis via DCLK1-controlled networks. Thus, DCLK1 appears to be a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of inflammatory diseases and HCC.
Keywords: DCLK1; HCV; cancer stem cell; hepatocellular carcinoma; inflammation.