BACKGROUND: We had previously demonstrated overexpression of fibroblast growth factor receptor-4 (FGFR4) in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, additional molecular mechanisms resulting in amplified FGFR4 signaling in HCC remain under-studied. Here, we studied the mechanistic role of its co-receptor klotho-beta (KLB) in driving elevated FGFR4 activity in HCC progression.<br /><br />RESULTS: Quantitative real-time PCR analysis identified frequent elevation of KLB gene expression in HCC tumors relative to matched non-tumor tissue, with a more than two-fold increase correlating with development of multiple tumors in patients. KLB-silencing in Huh7 cells decreased cell proliferation and suppressed FGFR4 downstream signaling. While transient repression of KLB-FGFR4 signaling decreased protein expression of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), a HCC diagnostic marker, prolonged inhibition enriched for resistant HCC cells exhibiting increased liver stemness.<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS: Elevated KLB expression in HCC tissues provides further credence to the oncogenic role of increased FGFR4 signaling in HCC progression and represents a novel biomarker to identify additional patients amenable to anti-FGFR4 therapy. The restricted tissue expression profile of KLB, together with the anti-proliferative effect observed with KLB-silencing, also qualifies it as a specific and potent therapeutic target for HCC patients. The enrichment of a liver stem cell-like population in response to extended KLB-FGFR4 repression necessitates further investigation to target the development of drug resistance.
Poh, W., Wong, W., Ong, H., Aung, M. O., Lim, S. G., Chua, B. T., & Ho, H. K. (2012). Klotho-beta overexpression as a novel target for suppressing proliferation and fibroblast growth factor receptor-4 signaling in hepatocellular carcinoma. Molecular Cancer, 11. https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-4598-11-14