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Abstract

Cancer-associated mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) play a pivotal role in modulating tumor progression. However, the interactions between liver cancer-associated MSCs (LC-MSCs) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remain unreported. Here, we identified the presence of MSCs in HCC tissues. We also showed that LC-MSCs significantly enhanced tumor growth in vivo and promoted tumor sphere formation in vitro. LC-MSCs also promoted HCC metastasis in an orthotopic liver transplantation model. Complementary DNA (cDNA) microarray analysis showed that S100A4 expression was significantly higher in LC-MSCs compared with liver normal MSCs (LN-MSCs) from adjacent cancer-free tissues. Importantly, the inhibition of S100A4 led to a reduction of proliferation and invasion of HCC cells, while exogenous S100A4 expression in HCC cells resulted in heavier tumors and more metastasis sites. Our results indicate that S100A4 secreted from LC-MSCs can promote HCC cell proliferation and invasion. We then found the expression of oncogenic microRNA (miR)-155 in HCC cells was significantly up-regulated by coculture with LC-MSCs and by S100A4 ectopic overexpression. The invasion-promoting effects of S100A4 were significantly attenuated by a miR-155 inhibitor. These results suggest that S100A4 exerts its effects through the regulation of miR-155 expression in HCC cells. We demonstrate that S100A4 secreted from LC-MSCs promotes the expression of miR-155, which mediates the down-regulation of suppressor of cytokine signaling 1, leading to the subsequent activation of STAT3 signaling. This promotes the expression of matrix metalloproteinases 9, which results in increased tumor invasiveness. Conclusion: S100A4 secreted from LC-MSCs is involved in the modulation of HCC progression, and may be a potential therapeutic target. (HEPATOLOGY 2013)