FAK Is required for c-Met/β-catenin-driven hepatocarcinogenesis

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Abstract

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third most common cause of cancer death worldwide and most patients with HCC have limited treatment options. Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) is overexpressed in many HCC specimens, offering a potential target for HCC treatment. However, the role of FAK in hepatocarcinogenesis remains elusive. Establishing whether FAK expression plays a role in HCC development is necessary to determine whether it is a viable therapeutic target. In this study, we generated mice with hepatocyte-specific deletion ofFakand investigated the role of Fak in an oncogenic (c-MET/β-catenin, MET/CAT)-driven HCC model. We found that deletion ofFakin hepatocytes did not affect morphology, proliferation, or apoptosis. However,Fakdeficiency significantly repressed MET/CAT-induced tumor development and prolonged survival of animals with MET/CAT-induced HCC. In mouse livers and HCC cell lines, Fak was activated by MET, which induced the activation of Akt/Erk and up-regulated cyclin D1 and tumor cell proliferation. CAT enhanced MET-stimulated FAK activation and synergistically induced the activation of the AKT/ERK-cyclin D1 signaling pathway in a FAK kinase-dependent manner. In addition, FAK was required for CAT-induced cyclin D1 expression in a kinase-independent fashion.Conclusion: Fak is required for c-Met/β-catenin-driven hepatocarcinogenesis. Inhibition of FAK provides a potential strategy to treat HCC. (Hepatology 2015;61:214–226)

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