PloS one

Telomerase inhibition decreases alpha-fetoprotein expression and secretion by hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines: in vitro and in vivo study.

PMID 25822740


Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) is a diagnostic marker for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). A direct relationship between poor prognosis and the concentration of serum AFP has been observed. Telomerase, an enzyme that stabilizes the telomere length, is expressed by 90% of HCC. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of telomerase inhibition on AFP secretion and the involvement of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway. Proliferation and viability tests were performed using tetrazolium salt. Apoptosis was determined through the Annexin V assay using flow cytometry. The concentrations of AFP were measured using ELISA kits. The AFP mRNA expression was evaluated using RT-PCR, and cell migration was evaluated using a Boyden chamber assay. The in vivo effect of costunolide on AFP production was tested in NSG mice. Telomerase inhibition by costunolide and BIBR 1532 at 5 and 10 μM decreased AFP mRNA expression and protein secretion by HepG2/C3A cells. The same pattern was obtained with cells treated with hTERT siRNA. This treatment exhibited no apoptotic effect. The AFP mRNA expression and protein secretion by PLC/PRF/5 was decreased after treatment with BIBR1532 at 10 μM. In contrast, no effect was obtained for PLC/PRF/5 cells treated with costunolide at 5 or 10 μM. Inhibition of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway decreased the AFP concentration. In contrast, the MAPK/ERK pathway appeared to not be involved in HepG2/C3A cells, whereas ERK inhibition decreased the AFP concentration in PLC/PRF/5 cells. Modulation of the AFP concentration was also obtained after the inhibition or activation of PKC. Costunolide (30 mg/kg) significantly decreased the AFP serum concentration of NSG mice bearing HepG2/C3A cells. Both the inhibition of telomerase and the inhibition of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway decreased the AFP production of HepG2/C3A and PLC/PRF/5 cells, suggesting a relationship between telomerase and AFP expression through the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway.