Background and Aim: N-cadherin (N-cad), one of the classic cadherins, has been reported to be involved in tumor metastasis in some types of tumors. This study aims to investigate the expression status of N-cad in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and the correlation between N-cad expression and metastatic potential, as well as the surgical outcomes of HCC.
Methods: N-cad expression in HCC and adjacent liver tissues, as well as normal liver tissues, was studied by immunohistochemistry and Western blot, and the relationship between N-cad expression and the clinicopathological features of HCC was evaluated. By using RNA interference technique, the correlation of N-cad expression and metastatic potential was investigated by downregulating N-cad expression in HCCLM3 cells, and the effects of N-cad downregulation on cell aggregation, migration, and invasion were then analyzed. Furthermore, the correlation between N-cad expression and the surgical outcomes of a cohort of HCC patients was analyzed.
Results: In liver tissues, N-cad was strongly expressed on cell–cell boundaries, whereas various reduced-expression patterns were observed in tumors. Of 64 HCC, 34 (53%) tumors showed reduced N-cad expression, compared with their adjacent liver tissues. The decreased expression of N-cad was significantly correlated with poorer tumor differentiation (P = 0.001) and vascular invasion (P = 0.003). N-cad knockdown in HCCLM3 cells resulted in decreased cell aggregation and increased cell migration and invasion. The decreased expression of N-cad in HCC was significantly associated with shorter postoperative disease-free survival (P = 0.039).
Conclusions: N-cad expression is decreased in HCC, and the downregulation of N-cad is associated with the metastatic potential of HCC and poorer surgical prognosis.