Trefoil factor 3 mediation of oncogenicity and chemoresistance in hepatocellular carcinoma is AKT-BCL-2 dependent

Ming Liang You, Yi Jun Chen, Qing Yun Chong, Ming Ming Wu, Vijay Pandey, Ru Mei Chen, Liang Liu, Lan Ma, Zheng Sheng Wu, Tao Zhu, Peter E. Lobie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The efficacious treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains a challenge, partially being attributed to intrinsic chemoresistance. Previous reports have observed increased TFF3 expression in HCC. Herein, we investigated the functional role of TFF3 in progression of HCC, and in both intrinsic and acquired chemoresistance. TFF3 expression was observed to be upregulated in HCC and associated with poor clinicopathological features and worse patient survival outcome. Functionally, forced expression of TFF3 in HCC cell lines increased cell proliferation, cell survival, anchorage-independent and 3D matrigel growth, cell invasion and migration, and in vivo tumor growth. In contrast, depleted expression of TFF3 decreased the oncogenicity of HCC cells as indicated by the above parameters. Furthermore, forced expression of TFF3 decreased doxorubicin sensitivity of HCC cells, which was attributed to increased doxorubicin efflux and cancer stem cell-like behavior of Hep3B cells. In contrast, depletion of TFF3 increased doxorubicin sensitivity and decreased cancer stem cell-like behavior of Hep3B cells. Correspondingly, TFF3 expression was markedly increased in Hep3B cells with acquired doxorubicin resistance, while the depletion of TFF3 resulted in re-sensitization of the Hep3B cells to doxorubicin. The increased doxorubicin efflux and enhanced cancer stem cell-like behavior of the doxorubicin-resistant Hep3B cells was observed to be dependent on TFF3 expression. In addition, we determined that TFF3-stimulated oncogenicity and chemoresistance in HCC cells was mediated by AKT-dependent expression of BCL-2. Hence, therapeutic inhibition of TFF3 should be considered to hinder HCC progression and overcome intrinsic and acquired chemoresistance in HCC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39323-39344
Number of pages22
Issue number24
StatePublished - 2017


  • Cancer stem cells
  • Chemoresistance
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Oncogenic
  • TFF3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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