Fenretinide-induced apoptosis of Huh-7 hepatocellular carcinoma is retinoic acid receptor β dependent

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21 Scopus citations


Background: Retinoids are used to treat several types of cancer; however, their effects on liver cancer have not been fully characterized. To investigate the therapeutic potential of retinoids on hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the present study evaluates the apoptotic effect of a panel of natural and synthetic retinoids in three human HCC cell lines as well as explores the underlying mechanisms. Methods: Apoptosis was determined by caspase-3 cleavage using western blot, DNA double-strand breaks using TUNEL assay, and phosphatidylserine translocation using flow cytometry analysis. Gene expression of nuclear receptors was assessed by real-time PCR. Transactivation assay and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) were conducted to evaluate the activation of RXRα/RARβ pathway by fenretinide. Knockdown of RARβ mRNA expression was achieved by siRNA transfection. Results: Our data revealed that fenretinide effectively induces apoptosis in Huh-7 and Hep3B cells. Gene expression analysis of nuclear receptors revealed that the basal and inducibility of retinoic acid receptor β (RARβ) expression positively correlate with the susceptibility of HCC cells to fenretinide treatment. Furthermore, fenretinide transactivates the RXRα/RARβ-mediated pathway and directly increases the transcriptional activity of RARβ. Knockdown of RARβ mRNA expression significantly impairs fenretinide-induced apoptosis in Huh-7 cells. Conclusion: Our findings reveal that endogenous expression of retinoids receptor RARβ gene determines the susceptibility of HCC cells to fenretinide-induced apoptosis. Our results also demonstrate fenretinide directly activates RARβ and induces apoptosis in Huh-7 cells in a RARβ-dependent manner. These findings suggest a novel role of RARβ as a tumor suppressor by mediating the signals of certain chemotherapeutic agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number236
JournalBMC Cancer
StatePublished - Dec 31 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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