• Open Access

Significance of epithelial growth factor in the epithelial–mesenchymal transition of human gallbladder cancer cells


To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: cooninh@zb4.so-net.ne.jp


Five gallbladder cancer (GBC) cell lines were examined for morphological changes in collagen gel culture. GBh3 and HUCCT-1 cells formed tubules in response to treatment with epithelial growth factor (EGF) and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), and showed high levels of expression of E-cadherin (ECD), and low levels of SNAIL, vimentin, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β, and nucleostemin (NS). In contrast, the GBd15 and FU-GBC-1 cell lines treated with EGF and HGF showed a scattering phenotype, and expressed low levels of ECD and high levels of SNAIL, vimentin, TGF-β, and NS. All cell lines expressed the EGF receptor, c-Met, EGF, and TGF-α, but not HGF. Transforming growth factor-β was upregulated by EGF. Knockdown of the EGF receptor abrogated both tubule formation and scattering, whereas KD of TGF-β abrogated only scattering. Knockdown of EGF induced nuclear translocation of β-catenin and Wnt-related NS induction in the scattering cell lines, but not in the tubule-forming cell lines, whereas KD of glycogen synthase kinase-3β in the tubule-forming cell lines resulted in the nuclear translocation of β-catenin and Wnt-related NS induction in response to EGF treatment. These results suggest that EGF enhances epithelial–mesenchymal transformation and acquisition of stemness in GBC cells with a scattering phenotype through the activity of β-catenin. Repression of ECD in scattering GBC cells induced the release of β-catenin from the cell adhesion complexes along the plasma membrane and its translocation to the nucleus to activate Wnt signaling, which upregulated NS. (Cancer Sci 2012; 103: 1165–1171)