Liver inflammation plays a critical role in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) etiology. Damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMP), such as high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1), and dysregulated miRNAs involved in inflammatory disease states, such as miR-21, may participate in the link between inflammation and cancer. We sought to determine the role of HMGB1 signaling in HCC tumor progression. We first document the concordant expression increase of HMGB1 and miR-21 in HCC cell lines and primary HCC tumor samples and subsequently show that HMGB1 stimulation results in overexpression of miR-21. These changes were found to be dependent on the IL6/STAT3 signaling axis. Invasion and migration of HCC cells in vitro were inhibited by both STAT3 and miR-21 antagonists, suggesting a role for this pathway in HCC tumor progression. We verified that HMGB1-induced expression of miR-21 in HCC provides a posttranscriptional repression of the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) inhibitors RECK and TIMP3, which are known to impact HCC progression and metastases. Finally, we found that inhibition of miR-21 in murine HMGB1-overexpressing HCC xenografts led to reduced tumor MMP activity through released repression of the miR-21 targets RECK and TIMP3, which ultimately impeded tumor progression. The prototypical DAMP, HMGB1, is released during liver inflammation and provides a favorable environment for HCC growth. HMGB1 signaling increases miR-21 expression to mediate the enhanced activity of MMPs through RECK and TIMP3. These findings provide a novel mechanism for HMGB1- mediated HCC progression through the IL6/Stat3-miR-21 axis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research