J Cancer 2019; 10(23):5862-5873. doi:10.7150/jca.31599

Research Paper

Oncogenic Wnt3a: A Candidate Specific Marker and Novel Molecular Target for Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Wenjie Zheng1*, Min Yao2*, Miao Fang1, Liuhong Pan1, Li Wang3, Junling Yang1, Zhizhen Dong4, Dengfu Yao1✉

1. Research Center of Clinical Medicine, Affiliated Hospital of Nantong University, Nantong 226001, Jiangsu Province, China;
2. Department of Medical Immunology, Medical School of Nantong University, Nantong 226001, Jiangsu Province, China;
3. Department of Medical Informatics, Medical School of Nantong University, Nantong 226001, Jiangsu Province, China;
4. Department of Diagnostics, Affiliated Hospital of Nantong University, Nantong 226001, Jiangsu Province, China.
* Equal contributors

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Citation:
Zheng W, Yao M, Fang M, Pan L, Wang L, Yang J, Dong Z, Yao D. Oncogenic Wnt3a: A Candidate Specific Marker and Novel Molecular Target for Hepatocellular Carcinoma. J Cancer 2019; 10(23):5862-5873. doi:10.7150/jca.31599. Available from http://www.jcancer.org/v10p5862.htm

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Abstract

Background and aim: It is of the utmost importance for the specific diagnosis and effective therapy of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Abnormality of oncogenic Wingless-type MMTV integration site family member 3a (Wnt3a) has been associated with progression of HCC. In this study, we aimed to evaluate Wnt3a as a novel biomarker and target for HCC.

Methods: Circulating Wnt3a levels were quantitatively detected in a cohort of chronic liver diseases by an enzyme-linked immune-absorbent assay (ELISA). Hepatic Wnt3a expression in HCC and para-cancerous tissues was analyzed by immunohistochemistry. Prognostic value of Wnt3a for HCC was discovered in the cohort from the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). Dynamic alterations of Wnt3a levels were detected in the hepatocarcinogenesis model induced by 2-acetylaminofluorene. Effects of Wnt3a on biological behaviors were evaluated in vitro and in vivo based on Crispr/Cas9.

Results: Up-regulated Wnt3a levels were observed in serum of HCC patients with high specificity and sensitivity for HCC diagnosis. Combination of Wnt3a and AFP could improve sensitivity to 93.9% in serological detection. In addition, Wnt3a expression in HCC tissues was significantly higher than that in para-cancerous tissues. The cohort of TCGA demonstrated that high Wnt3a expression led to a poor survival of HCC patients, especially in cases at advanced stages. Furthermore, the hepatocarcinogenesis model showed that Wnt3a dynamically increased in the development of HCC. Functionally, silencing Wnt3a by Crispr/Cas9 suppressed the proliferation, colony formation, induced cell cycle arrest of HCC cells by de-activating Wnt/β-catenin pathway in vitro, and inhibited xenograft tumor growth in vivo.

Conclusions: Oncogenic Wnt3a could be considered as a candidate biomarker and novel target for HCC.

Keywords: Hepatocellular carcinoma, Wnt3a, Specific diagnosis, Target therapy, Biomarker