Serotonin promotes the proliferation of serum-deprived hepatocellular carcinoma cells via upregulation of FOXO3aReportar como inadecuado

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Molecular Cancer

, 12:14

First Online: 19 February 2013Received: 06 February 2013Accepted: 14 February 2013DOI: 10.1186-1476-4598-12-14

Cite this article as: Liang, C., Chen, W., Zhi, X. et al. Mol Cancer 2013 12: 14. doi:10.1186-1476-4598-12-14


BackgroundPeripheral serotonin is involved in tumorigenesis and induces a pro-proliferative effect in hepatocellular carcinoma HCC cells; however, the intracellular mechanisms by which serotonin exerts a mitogenic effect remain unclear. In this research, we examined whether FOXO3a, a transcription factor at the interface of crucial cellular processes, plays a role downstream of serotonin in HCC cells.

ResultsThe cell viability and expression of FOXO3a was assessed in three HCC cell lines Huh7, HepG2 and Hep3B during serum deprivation in the presence or absence of serotonin. Serum free media significantly inhibited HCC proliferation and led to reduced expression and nuclear accumulation of FOXO3a. Knockdown of FOXO3a enhanced the ability of serum deprivation to inhibit HCC cells proliferation. And overexpression of non-phosphorylated FOXO3a in HCC cells reversed serum-deprivation-induced growth inhibition. Serotonin reversed the serum-deprivation-induced inhibition of cell proliferation and upregulated FOXO3a in Huh7 cells; however, serotonin had no effect on the proliferation of serum-deprived HepG2 or Hep3B cells. In addition to proliferation, serotonin also induced phosphorylation of AKT and FOXO3a in serum-deprived Huh7 cells but not in HepG2 and Hep3B cells. However, the phosphorylation of FOXO3a induced by serotonin did not export FOXO3a from nucleus to cytoplasm in serum-deprived Huh7 cells. Consequently, we demonstrated that serotonin promoted the proliferation of Huh7 cells by increasing the expression of FOXO3a. We also provide preliminary evidence that different expression levels of the 5-HT2B receptor 5-HT2BR may contribute to the distinct effects of serotonin in different serum-deprived HCC cells.

ConclusionsThis study demonstrates that FOXO3a functions as a growth factor in serum-deprived HCC cells and serotonin promotes the proliferation of serum-deprived HCC cells via upregulation of FOXO3a, in the presence of sufficient levels of the serotonin receptor 5-HT2BR. Drugs targeting the serotonin-5-HT2BR-FOXO3a pathway may provide a novel target for anticancer therapy.

KeywordsHepatocellular carcinoma Serotonin FOXO3a 5-HT2B receptor Cell proliferation Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1476-4598-12-14 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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