Hepatitis B virus promotes cancer cell migration by downregulating miR-340-5p expression to induce STAT3 overexpression

Cell Biosci. 2017 Apr 12:7:16. doi: 10.1186/s13578-017-0144-8. eCollection 2017.


Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, and infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a leading cause of HCC. Previous studies have demonstrated that expression of the tumor inhibitor miR-340 is significantly downregulated in HCC tissues compared with normal liver tissues. However, the precise biological role of miR-340-5p in HBV-HCC and its molecular mechanism of action remain unknown.

Results: Expression of miR-340-5p was downregulated in HBV-associated HCC liver tissue and HBV-infected cells, facilitating migration of liver cancer cells. Signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT)3 was found to be a direct functional target of miR-340-5p. The regulation of STAT3 expression by miR-340-5p was assessed using qRT-PCR and western blotting, and the effects of exogenous miR-340-5p and STAT3 on the migration of HBV-infected cells were evaluated in vitro using Transwell® and wound-healing assays. The expression of E-cadherin and vimentin, associated with epithelial-mesenchymal transition, was also assessed using Western blotting after transfection of miR-340-5p mimics and/or STAT3 expression vectors. Overexpression of STAT3 resulted in rescue of HBV effects, decreased E-cadherin expression, increased vimentin expression, and ultimately, enhanced cell migration. Re-introduction of the STAT3 CDS led to marked reversal of the inhibition of cell migration in HBV-infected cells mediated by miR-340-5p.

Conclusions: Hepatitis B virus promotes the migration of liver cancer cells by downregulating miR-340-5p expression to induce STAT3 overexpression. Our results show that STAT3 plays a key role in regulating cell migration in HBV-HCC involving miR-340-5p.

Keywords: Cell migration; HBV–HCC; STAT3; miR-340-5p.