Tumor Biology

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 1239–1250 | Cite as

Inhibitory effect and mechanism of mesenchymal stem cells on liver cancer cells

  • Lingling HouEmail author
  • Xiaoyu Wang
  • Yaqiong Zhou
  • Haibin Ma
  • Ziling Wang
  • Jinsheng He
  • Honggang Hu
  • Weijun GuanEmail author
  • Yuehui MaEmail author
Research Article


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), with their capacity for self-renewal and differentiation into various cell types, are important seed cells for stem cell therapy. MSCs exhibit potent pathotropic migratory properties that make them attractive for use in tumor prevention and therapy. However, little is known about the underlying molecular mechanisms that link MSCs to the targeted tumor cells. This study investigated the inhibitory effect and mechanism of MSCs on human hepatoma HepG2 cells using co-culture and conditioned medium system and animal transplantation model. The HepG2 cells were co-cultured with MSCs or treated with conditional media derived from MSCs cultures in vitro. Results of methylthiazolyldiphenyl tetrazolium assay and flow cytometric assay showed that the proliferation and apoptosis of HepG2 cells decreased and increased, respectively. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction analysis showed that the expression levels of bcl-2, c-Myc, β-catenin, and survivin were downregulated. The results of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and Western blot proved that MSCs secreted Dkk-1 to inhibit the expression of Wnt signaling pathway-related factors (bcl-2, c-Myc, β-catenin, and survivin) in tumor cells, consequently inhibiting the proliferation and promoting the apoptosis of HepG2 cells. Animal transplantation experiment showed that tumor growth was significantly inhibited when HepG2 cells were co-injected with MSCs into nude mice. These results suggested that MSCs inhibited the growth and promoted the apoptosis of HepG2 cells in a dose-dependent manner. This study provided a new approach and experimental basis for cancer therapy. This study also proved that the Wnt signaling pathway may have a function in MSC-mediated tumor cell inhibition.


Mesenchymal stem cells Liver cancer cells Inhibition Mechanism 



This work was supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2011JBM294), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81201762), Foundation of State Key Laboratory Cultivation Base for the Chemistry and Molecular Engineering of Medicinal Resources, Ministry of Science and Technology of China (CMEMR2012-B07), and the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program 2009CB521704). The authors thank Dr. Juan Du and Dr. Honggang Hu for critical reading of the manuscript.

Conflicts of Interest


Supplementary material

13277_2013_1165_Fig11_ESM.jpg (33 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 1

Apoptosis morphology of HepG2 induced by MSCs. (A) Cell morphology of the MSC:HepG2=5:1 group. HepG2 cell volume was reduced, cytoplasm density was increased, nuclear membrane and nucleolus were fragmented, and membrane structure was still intact, as indicated by an arrow. (B) Cell morphology of the MSC:HepG2=1:1 group, a small number of HepG2 cells showed visible cytoplasm agglutination and became round, as indicated by an arrow. (C) Cell morphology of the MSC:HepG2=1:5 group, apoptosis of HepG2 cells was not obvious, most cells were still in normal shape. (200×) (JPEG 32 kb)

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13277_2013_1165_Fig12_ESM.jpg (19 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 2

mRNA expression levels of Bcl-2, c-Myc, β-catenin, and survivin in HepG2 cells treated with MSC-conditioned media at different treatment times. Lane 1, HepG2 control group at 24 h; Lane 2, HepG2 cells were treated with 80 % MSC-conditioned media for 24 h; Lane 3, HepG2 cells were treated with 80 % HEK 293-conditioned media for 24 h; Lane 4, HepG2 control group at 48 h; Lane 5, HepG2 cells were treated with 80 % MSC-conditioned media for 48 h; Lane 6, HepG2 cells were treated with 80 % HEK 293-conditioned media for 48 h; Lane 7, HepG2 control group at 72 h; Lane 8, HepG2 cells were treated with 80 % MSC-conditioned media for 72 h; and Lane 9, HepG2 cells were treated with 80 % HEK 293-conditioned media for 72 h (JPEG 18 kb)

13277_2013_1165_MOESM2_ESM.tif (2.6 mb)
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13277_2013_1165_Fig13_ESM.jpg (55 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 3

mRNA expression levels of bcl-2, c-Myc, β-catenin, and survivin in HepG2 cells co-cultured with MSCs. (A) HepG2:MSC=5:1 co-culture groups; (B) HepG2:MSC=1:1 co-culture groups; (C) HepG2:MSC=1:5 co-culture groups; Lane 1, HepG2 control group at 24 h; Lane 2, HepG2 cells were co-cultured with MSCs for 24 h; Lane 3, HepG2 cells were co-cultured with HEK 293 cells for 24 h; Lane 4, HepG2 control group at 48 h; Lane 5, HepG2 cells were co-cultured with MSCs for 48 h; Lane 6, HepG2 cells were co-cultured with HEK 293 cells for 48 h; Lane 7, HepG2 control group at 72 h; Lane 8, HepG2 cells were co-cultured with MSCs for 72 h; and Lane 9, HepG2 cells were co-cultured with HEK 293 cells for 72 h (JPEG 55 kb)

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Supplementary Fig. 4

Pathological examination of tumor tissues (200×). Rich and dense tumor cells were detected in the sections of the HepG2 and HEK 293 control groups (Figs. 14A, 14D, 14E, 14F, and 14H); less tumor cells and more connective tissues in the MSC section: HepG2=1:1 and MSC:HepG2=2:1 groups than the HepG2 and HEK 293 control groups (Figs. 14B and 14C) (JPEG 110 kb)

13277_2013_1165_MOESM4_ESM.tif (4.7 mb)
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Copyright information

© International Society of Oncology and BioMarkers (ISOBM) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Life Sciences and BioengineeringBeijing Jiaotong UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Institute of Animal SciencesChinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS)BeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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