H2.0-like homeobox 1 (HLX1) is a homeobox transcription factor gene expressed primarily in cytotrophoblast cell types in the early pregnancy human placenta and involved in the development of enteric nervous system. However, the biological function of HLX1 in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains unclear. In the present study, semiquantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), quantitative real-time RT-PCR, western blot, and immunohistochemical staining were used to examine the expression level of HLX1 in a total of 125 cases of HCC tissues and their matched adjacent nontumorous tissues (ANLTs), and its correlation with clinical features of HCC patients was analyzed. Our findings showed that the expression level of HLX1 was significantly reduced in HCCs compared to ANLTs. Besides, it was also remarkably downregulated in HCC cell lines compared to normal liver cell line. We further found that the HLX1 level was significantly associated with the tumor size (p = 0.016), tumor number (p = 0.004), vascular invasion (p = 0.031), Edmondson-Steiner grade (p = 0.041), tumor-node-metastasis (TNM) stage (p < 0.001), and Barcelona clinic liver cancer (BCLC) stage (p = 0.008). Moreover, HLX1 was an independent risk factor for overall survival (OS, p = 0.020) and disease-free survival (DFS, p = 0.024) of HCC patients. In vitro experiments showed that overexpression of HLX1 markedly suppressed the invasion, migration, proliferation, and colony formation of HCC cells; in contrast, downregulation of HLX1 significantly promoted the invasion, migration, proliferation, and colony formation of HCC cells. In vivo study indicated that overexpression of HLX1 significantly inhibited the tumorigenic capacity of HCC cells in nude mice. Based on these findings, we suggest that HLX1 acts as a tumor suppressor in HCC.
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Compliance with ethical standards
Conflicts of interest
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the legislation and ethical boards of Second Xiangya Hospital of Central South University and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Medical Experimental Animal Care Commission of Central South University.
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