SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a highly vascularized tumor with frequent extrahepatic metastasis. Active angiogenesis and metastasis are responsible for rapid recurrence and poor survival of HCC. However, the mechanisms that contribute to tumor metastasis remain unclear. Here we evaluate the effects of ATPase inhibitory factor 1 (IF1), an inhibitor of the mitochondrial H(+)-adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthase, on HCC angiogenesis and metastasis. We found that increased expression of IF1 in human HCC predicts poor survival and disease recurrence after surgery. Patients with HCC who have large tumors, with vascular invasion and metastasis, expressed high levels of IF1. Invasive tumors overexpressing IF1 were featured by active epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and increased angiogenesis, whereas silencing IF1 expression attenuated EMT and invasion of HCC cells. Mechanistically, IF1 promoted Snai1 and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression by way of activating nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) signaling, which depended on the binding of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor-associated factor 1 (TRAF1) to NF-κB-inducing kinase (NIK) and the disruption of NIK association with the TRAF2-cIAP2 complex. Suppression of the NF-κB pathway interfered with IF1-mediated EMT and invasion. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assay showed that NF-κB can bind to the Snai1 promoter and trigger its transcription. IF1 was directly transcribed by NF-κB, thus forming a positive feedback signaling loop. There was a significant correlation between IF1 expression and pp65 levels in a cohort of HCC biopsies, and the combination of these two parameters was a more powerful predictor of poor prognosis. Conclusion: IF1 promotes HCC angiogenesis and metastasis by up-regulation of Snai1 and VEGF transcription, thereby providing new insight into HCC progression and IF1 function. (Hepatology 2014;60:1659–1673)