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Downregulation of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor in hepatocellular carcinoma facilitates Transforming Growth Factor-beta-induced epithelial to amoeboid transition

  • Lopez-Luque, Judit
  • Bertran, Esther
  • Crosas-Molist, Eva
  • Maiques, Oscar
  • Malfettone, Andrea
  • Caja, Laia
  • Serrano, Teresa
  • Ramos, Emilio
  • Sanz-Moreno, Victoria
  • Fabregat, Isabel
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2019
DOI: 10.1016/j.canlet.2019.08.011
DiVA - Academic Archive On-line
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The Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) and the Transforming Growth Factor-beta (TGF-beta) are key regulators of hepatocarcinogenesis. Targeting EGFR was proposed as a promising therapy; however, poor success was obtained in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) clinical trials. Here, we describe how EGFR is frequently downregulated in HCC patients while TGF-beta is upregulated. Using 2D/3D cellular models, we show that after EGFR loss, TGF-beta is more efficient in its pro-migratory and invasive effects, inducing epithelial to amoeboid transition. EGFR knock-down promotes loss of cell-cell and cell-to-matrix adhesion, favouring TGF-beta-induced actomyosin contractility and acquisition of an amoeboid migratory phenotype. Moreover, TGF-beta upregulates RHOC and CDC42 after EGFR silencing, promoting Myosin II in amoeboid cells. Importantly, low EGFR combined with high TGFBI or RHOC/CDC42 levels confer poor patient prognosis. In conclusion, this work reveals a new tumour suppressor function for EGFR counteracting TGF-beta-mediated epithelial to amoeboid transitions in HCC, supporting a rational for targeting the TGF-beta pathway in patients with low EGFR expression. Our work also highlights the relevance of epithelial to amoeboid transition in human tumours and the need to better target this process in the clinic.

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