Tumor Biology

, Volume 33, Issue 6, pp 2125–2134 | Cite as

Overexpression of HOXA1 correlates with poor prognosis in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma

  • Tian-Zhou Zha
  • Ben-Shun Hu
  • Hai-Feng Yu
  • Yong-Fei Tan
  • Yun Zhang
  • Kai Zhang
Research Article


HOXA1 overexpression is sufficient for malignant transformation of nontumorigenic epithelial cells. It is known that HOXA1, which was upregulated in squamous cell carcinomas, affects both cell growth and death. The forced expression of HOXA1 in human breast cancer cells results in increased cell growth activity. However, it has not been reported in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In this study, we used immunohistochemistry to compare HOXA1 protein expression in HCC and normal liver tissues and further analyzed HOXA1 protein expression in 156 clinicopathologically characterized HCC cases. We stably knocked down the endogenous expression level of HOXA1 in HepG2 cells with specific shRNA-expressing lentiviral vector. Following the successful establishment of stable cells, we examined in vitro cell growth by the MTT assay, anchorage-independent growth through a soft agar colony formation assay and cell migration/invasion by transwell and Boyden chamber assay. In addition, we also investigated in vivo tumor growth by xenograft transplantation of HepG2 cells into nude mice. Our results showed that the protein expression level of HOXA1 was markedly higher in HCC tissues than that in normal liver tissue (P = 0.019). In addition, a high expression level of HOXA1 protein was positively correlated with the T classification (P < 0.001), the N classification (P < 0.001), distant metastasis (P = 0.004), and the clinical stage (P < 0.001) of HCC patients. Patients with higher HOXA1 expression showed a significantly shorter overall survival time compared with patients with low HOXA1 expression. Multivariate analysis suggested that HOXA1 expression might be an independent prognostic indicator (P < 0.001) for the survival of patients with HCC. HOXA1-specific shRNA (shHOXA1) successfully knocked down HOXA1 endogenous expression in HepG2 cells. Compared to the parental and control shRNA-transfected (shCtrl) HepG2 cells, the shHOXA1 cells exhibited significantly reduced in vitro cell growth, anchorage-independent growth, and cell migration and invasion (P < 0.05). In vivo, the xenograft transplants from shHOXA1 cells gave rise to much smaller tumors compared with those from shCtrl cells. Collectively, high HOXA1 expression is associated with poor overall survival in patients with HCC. The downregulation of HOXA1 inhibits growth, anchorage-independent growth, and migration and invasion of HepG2 cells.


HOXA Hepatocellular carcinoma Biomarker Prognosis Immunohistochemical analysis 



This work was funded by research grants from Wuxi Health Bureau (number 2011421)

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© International Society of Oncology and BioMarkers (ISOBM) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of General SurgeryYixing People’s HospitalYixingChina
  2. 2.Department of General SurgeryNorthern Jiangsu People’s HospitalYangzhouChina

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