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Identification of sphingosine kinase 1 (SphK1) as a primary target of icaritin in hepatocellular carcinoma cells.


PMID 28206952

Abstract

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a highly aggressive neoplasm. We aim to explore the anti-HCC activity by a natural prenylflavonoid icaritin. Icaritin was cytotoxic and pro-apoptotic when added to established (HepG2, KYN-2 and Huh-7 lines) and primary human HCC cells. At the signaling level, icaritin inhibited sphingosine kinase 1 (SphK1) activity in HCC cells, which led to pro-apoptotic ceramide production and JNK1 activation. SphK1 inhibition or silence (by shRNA/microRNA) mimicked icaritin-mediated cytotoxicity, and almost nullified icaritin's activity in HepG2 cells. Reversely, exogenous over-expression of SphK1 sensitized icaritin-induced HepG2 cell apoptosis. In vivo, oral administration of icaritin dramatically inhibited HepG2 xenograft growth in SCID mice. Further, SphK1 activity in icaritin-treated tumors was largely inhibited. In summary, icaritin exerts potent anti-HCC activity in vitro and in vivo. SphK1 inhibition could be the primary mechanism of its actions in HCC cells.

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