Cancer research

HNRNPAB induces epithelial-mesenchymal transition and promotes metastasis of hepatocellular carcinoma by transcriptionally activating SNAIL.

PMID 24638979


Expression of heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein AB (HNRNPAB) has been reported to be dysregulated in tumors, but its specific contributions to tumor formation and progression are not fully understood. Here, we demonstrate that HNRNPAB is overexpressed in highly metastatic cells and tumor tissues from patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) with recurrence. We found that HNRNPAB overexpression promoted epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in a manner associated with HCC metastasis in vitro and in vivo. RNA interference-mediated silencing of the EMT factor SNAIL attenuated HNRNPAB-enhanced cell invasion in vitro and lung metastasis in vivo. Mechanistically, HNRNPAB acted to transactivate SNAIL1 transcription, which in turn inhibited transcription of the pivotal SNAIL target gene E-cadherin. Overexpression of HNRNPAB in HCC samples correlated with higher SNAIL levels, shorter overall survival, and higher tumor recurrence. HNRNPAB overexpression, alone or in combination with SNAIL, was found to be a significant independent risk factor for recurrence and survival after curative resection. In conclusion, our findings define HNRNPAB as an activator of EMT and metastasis in HCC that predicts poor clinical outcomes.