Cripto-1 contributes to stemness in hepatocellular carcinoma by stabilizing Dishevelled-3 and activating Wnt/β-catenin pathway

Regina Cheuk Lam Lo, Carmen Oi Ning Leung, Kristy Kwan Shuen Chan, Daniel Wai Hung Ho, Chun Ming Wong, Kin Wah Lee, Irene Oi Lin Ng

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Identification and characterization of functional molecular targets conferring stemness properties in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) offers crucial insights to overcome the major hurdles of tumor recurrence, metastasis and chemoresistance in clinical management. In the current study, we investigated the significance of Cripto-1 in contributing to HCC stemness. Cripto-1 was upregulated in the sorafenib-resistant clones derived from HCC cell lines and patient-derived xenograft that we previously developed, suggesting an association between Cripto-1 and stemness. By in vitro experiments, Cripto-1 fostered cell proliferation, migration, and invasion. It also enhanced self-renewal ability and conferred chemoresistance of HCC cells. Consistently, silencing of Cripto-1 suppressed in vivo tumorigenicity on serial transplantation. On the downstream signaling mechanism, expression of major components of Wnt/β-catenin pathway β-catenin, AXIN2, and C-MYC, accompanied by β-catenin activity was reduced upon Cripto-1 knockdown. The suppressive effects on stemness properties with Cripto-1 knockdown in vitro and in vivo were partially rescued by forced expression of constitutively active β-catenin. Further elucidation revealed the binding of Cripto-1 to Frizzled-7 (FZD7), low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 6 (LRP6) and Dishevelled-3 (DVL3) of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway and stabilized DVL3 protein. Analyses with clinical samples validated Cripto-1 overexpression in HCC tissues, as well as a positive correlation between Cripto-1 and AXIN2 expressions. High Cripto-1 level in tumor was associated with poorer disease-free survival of HCC patients. Taken together, Cripto-1 binds to FZD7/LRP6 and DVL3, stabilizes DVL3 expression and activates the Wnt/β-catenin signaling cascade to confer stemness in HCC. Our study findings substantiated the role of Cripto-1 in determining stemness phenotypes of HCC and mechanistically in modulating the Wnt/β-catenin signaling cascade, one of the most frequently deregulated pathways in liver cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1426-1441
Number of pages16
JournalCell Death and Differentiation
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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