Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, Anhui Medical University, Key Laboratory of Anti-inflammatory and Immune Medicine, Ministry of Education, Anhui Collaborative Innovation Center of Anti-inflammatory and Immune Medicine, Hefei 230032, China.
*These authors contributed equally to this work.
Background: β-arrestin2 and β2-adrenergic receptor (β2-AR) have important roles in malignant tumors, the present study aims to investigate the role of activated β2-AR in hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) during hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) progression and the regulatory effect of β-arrestin2.
Methods: Immunofluorescence and Western blot were used to detect the expression of β-arrestin2 and β2-AR in HSCs of liver tissues from human HCC samples and diethylnitrosamine (DEN)-induced HCC model mice. We next used β-arrestin2-/- mice to demonstrate the regulatory role of β-arrestin2 in DEN mice. The subsets of T cells were quantified by flow cytometry. MTT and wound healing assay were applied to detect the proliferation and migration of cells. Co-immunoprecipitation assay was used to detect the link of β-arrestin2 and β2-AR in HSCs. Effect of β-arrestin2 overexpression on β2-AR downstream signaling pathway was verified by Western blot. The secretion of CCL2 was detected by ELISA.
Results: The expression of β2-AR was significantly increased, while β-arrestin2 was decreased in HSCs of HCC tissues. And β-arrestin2 deficiency exacerbates DEN-induced HCC accompanied with increased β2-AR expression. The results of flow cytometry showed that the percentage of activated T cells decreased gradually after DEN injection. β-arrestin2 knockout down-regulated the ratio of activated T cells. In vitro, selective activation of β2-AR in HSCs promoted the proliferation and migration of HCC cells. β-arrestin2 overexpression enhanced co-immunoprecipitation of β-arrestin2 and β2-AR in activated HSCs, and decreased its downstream Akt phosphorylation. Akt inhibitor decreased secretion of CCL2 in activated HSCs.
Conclusion: Our study demonstrated that β2-AR activation in HSCs induces the proliferation and migration of HCC cells may be through Akt signaling, and this effect appears to be regulated by β-arrestin2.
Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma, hepatic stellate cells, tumor microenvironment, β2-adrenergic receptor, β-arrestin2