Multidrug resistance is one of the reasons for low survival of advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Our previous studies indicate that the hedgehog signalling is involved in hepatic carcinogenesis, metastasis and chemo-resistance. The present study aims to uncover molecular mechanisms underlying hepatoma chemo-resistance. TAP1 and GLI1/2 gene expression was assessed in both poorly differentiated hepatoma cells and HCC specimens. Potential GLI-binding site in the TAP1 promoter sequence was validated by molecular assays. Approximately 75% HCC specimens exhibited an elevated expression of hedgehog GLI1 transcription factor compared with adjacent liver tissue. Both GLI1/2 and TAP1 protein levels were significantly elevated in poorly differentiated hepatoma cells. Both Huh-7-trans and Huh-7-DN displayed more karyotypic abnormalities and differential gene expression profiles than their native Huh-7 cells. Sensitivity to Sorafenib, doxorubicin and cisplatin was remarkably improved after either GLI1 or TAP1 gene was inhibited by an RNAi approach or by a specific GLI1/2 inhibitor, GANT61. Further experiments confirmed that hedgehog transcription factor GLI1/2 binds to the TAP1 promoter, indicating that TAP1 is one of GLI1/2 target genes. In conclusion, TAP1 is under direct transcriptional control of the hedgehog signalling. Targeting hedgehog signalling confers a novel insight into alleviating drug resistance in the treatment of refractory HCC.
Keywords: GANT61; TAP1; chemo-resistance; hedgehog signalling; hepatocellular carcinoma.
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