PIM3 kinase promotes tumor metastasis in hepatoblastoma by upregulating cell surface expression of chemokine receptor cxcr4

Clin Exp Metastasis. 2022 Dec;39(6):899-912. doi: 10.1007/s10585-022-10186-3. Epub 2022 Oct 31.


Patients presenting with metastatic hepatoblastoma have limited treatment options and survival rates as low as 25%. We previously demonstrated that Proviral Integration site in Maloney murine leukemia virus 3 (PIM3) kinase promotes tumorigenesis and cancer cell stemness in hepatoblastoma. In this study, we assessed the role of PIM3 kinase in promoting hepatoblastoma metastasis. We utilized a tail vein injection model of metastasis to evaluate the effect of CRISPR/Cas9-mediated PIM3 knockout, stable overexpression of PIM3, and pharmacologic PIM inhibition on the formation of lung metastasis. In vivo studies revealed PIM3 knockout impaired the formation of lung metastasis: 5 out of 6 mice injected with wild type hepatoblastoma cells developed lung metastasis while none of the 7 mice injected with PIM3 knockout hepatoblastoma cells developed lung metastasis. PIM3 overexpression in hepatoblastoma increased the pulmonary metastatic burden in mice and mechanistically, upregulated the phosphorylation and cell surface expression of CXCR4, a key receptor in the progression of cancer cell metastasis. CXCR4 blockade with AMD3100 decreased the metastatic phenotype of PIM3 overexpressing cells, indicating that CXCR4 contributed to PIM3's promotion of hepatoblastoma metastasis. Clinically, PIM3 expression correlated positively with CXCR4 expression in primary hepatoblastoma tissues. In conclusion, we have shown PIM3 kinase promotes the metastatic phenotype of hepatoblastoma cells through upregulation of CXCR4 cell surface expression and these findings suggest that targeting PIM3 kinase may provide a novel therapeutic strategy for metastatic hepatoblastoma.

Keywords: CRISPR/Cas9 knockout; CXCR4; Hepatoblastoma; Metastasis; PIM3 kinase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Hepatoblastoma* / genetics
  • Liver Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms* / secondary
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / genetics
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation


  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Receptors, CXCR4
  • Pim3 protein, mouse