Journal of Molecular Medicine

, Volume 97, Issue 2, pp 163–176 | Cite as

Coexpression of FOXK1 and vimentin promotes EMT, migration, and invasion in gastric cancer cells

  • Hui Zhang
  • Xiaosheng Wu
  • Yizhi Xiao
  • Liqing Wu
  • Ying Peng
  • Weimei Tang
  • Guangnan Liu
  • Yong Sun
  • Jing Wang
  • Huiqiong Zhu
  • Mengwei Liu
  • Wenjing Zhang
  • Weiyu Dai
  • Ping Jiang
  • Aimin Li
  • Guoxin Li
  • Li XiangEmail author
  • Side LiuEmail author
  • Jide WangEmail author
Original Article


In human gastric cancer (GC), the upregulation of FOXK1 and vimentin is frequently observed in cancer cells and correlates with increased malignancy. We report that FOXK1 synergizes with vimentin to promote GC invasion and metastasis via the induction of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). We showed that higher expression levels of FOXK1 were significantly associated with GC development. FOXK1 can physically interact with and stabilize vimentin. Moreover, a positive correlation between the expression of FOXK1 and vimentin was found in GC cells. Higher expression levels of these two proteins were significantly associated with differentiation, lymph node metastasis, AJCC stage, and poorer prognosis. Furthermore, the coexpression of FOXK1 and vimentin enhances cell metastasis through the induction of EMT in GC cells. However, the siRNA-mediated repression of vimentin in FOXK1-overexpressing cells reversed the EMT-like phenotype and reduced GC cell migration and invasion in vitro and in vivo. Altogether, our findings suggest that the vimentin-FOXK1 axis provides new insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying EMT regulation during GC progression and metastasis.


FOXK1 Vimentin Gastric cancer Metastasis Epithelial-mesenchymal transition 



Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition


The forkhead box


American Joint Committee on Cancer


Gastric cancer


Tissue microarray



This study was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Funds of China (81672875 and 81772964) and “President Foundation of Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University” (2012B009, 2013Z007) and high-level topic-matching funds of Nanfang Hospital (201347 and G201227). Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Gastroenterology, Department of Gastroenterology, Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University; Guangzhou Pilot Project of Clinical and Translational Research Center (early gastrointestinal cancer, No. 7415696196402).

Compliance with ethical standards

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics approval

This study was conducted with the approval of the ethics committee of Southern Medical University.

Patient consent


Provenance and peer review

Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Supplementary material

109_2018_1720_Fig10_ESM.png (63 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 1

Vimentin physically interacts with FOXK1 in SCG7901 cells. (A) Diagram showing the full-length and truncated (N terminus, FHA domain and C terminus) FOXK1 fragments. Immunoprecipitation was performed using cell lysates from SCG7901 cells transfected with the above four constructs. Anti-HA or normal mouse (nm) IgG was used as the bait to detect vimentin. The IP blot was probed with the indicated antibodies to show the input. (B) Full-length, N-terminal, IF rod domain or C-terminal vimentin protein fragments interacted with FOXK1. All images represent two or three independent experiments with identical results. (C) FOXK1 increases the stability of vimentin via a posttranslational mechanism. SCG7901 cells were transfected with vimentin. Twenty-four hours after transfection, cycloheximide (CHX) was added to the culture, and the levels of the FOXK1 protein at different time points were determined via western blotting. The half-life of FOXK1 increased from 3 to 7 h in the presence of vimentin. (PNG 63 kb)

109_2018_1720_MOESM1_ESM.tiff (1 mb)
High Resolution Image (TIFF 1036 kb)
109_2018_1720_Fig7_ESM.png (243 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 2.

FOXK1 expression is positively correlated with vimentin expression in GC cells. These images are representative of 3 independent experiments with identical results. (PNG 242 kb)

109_2018_1720_MOESM2_ESM.tiff (2.1 mb)
High Resolution Image (TIFF 2193 kb)
109_2018_1720_Fig8_ESM.png (651 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 3.

Assessment of migration and invasion. Cells stably transfected with vector or FOXK1 were transfected with vimentin siRNA 48 h later, and the migratory (A) and invasive (B) abilities of the cells were decreased. ** P < 0.05 and *** P < 0.01. The experiments were repeated at least three times. (PNG 651 kb)

109_2018_1720_MOESM3_ESM.tiff (1.6 mb)
High Resolution Image (TIFF 1667 kb)
109_2018_1720_Fig9_ESM.png (754 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 4.

Gelatin zymography assay for MMP-2 and MMP-9 levels in SCG7901 cells. (A) Representative gelatin zymography results showing MMP2 and MMP9 activity. (B) Quantitative analysis of (A). The bars represent the intensity value of the bright band and were used for statistical analysis. N = 3, ****P < 0.001, vector vs. FOXK1 and FOXK1 vs. FOXK1-vimentin siRNA. (PNG 753 kb)

109_2018_1720_MOESM4_ESM.tiff (481 kb)
High Resolution Image (TIFF 481 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hui Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xiaosheng Wu
    • 1
  • Yizhi Xiao
    • 1
  • Liqing Wu
    • 1
  • Ying Peng
    • 1
  • Weimei Tang
    • 1
  • Guangnan Liu
    • 1
  • Yong Sun
    • 1
  • Jing Wang
    • 1
  • Huiqiong Zhu
    • 1
  • Mengwei Liu
    • 1
  • Wenjing Zhang
    • 3
  • Weiyu Dai
    • 1
  • Ping Jiang
    • 1
  • Aimin Li
    • 1
  • Guoxin Li
    • 4
  • Li Xiang
    • 5
    Email author
  • Side Liu
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • Jide Wang
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Gastroenterology, Department of Gastroenterology, Nanfang HospitalSouthern Medical UniversityGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Department of GastroenterologyHexian Memorial Affiliated Hospital of Southern Medical UniversityGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.Department of Medical Oncology, the First People’s Hospital of Yunnan ProvinceKunming University of Science and TechnologyKunmingChina
  4. 4.Department of General Surgery, Nanfang HospitalSouthern Medical UniversityGuangzhouChina
  5. 5.Department of GastroenterologyLonggang District People’s HospitalShenzhenChina

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