HOXB7 promotes tumor progression via bFGF-induced activation of MAPK/ERK pathway and indicated poor prognosis in hepatocellular carcinoma

Wei Min Wang, Yang Xu, Yao Hui Wang, Hai Xiang Sun, Yun Fan Sun, Yi Feng He, Qing Feng Zhu, Bo Hu, Xin Zhang, Jing Lin Xia, Shuang Jian Qiu, Jian Zhou, Xin Rong Yang, Jia Fan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The homeobox-containing gene HOXB7 plays an important role in the pathogenesis and progression of many cancers, yet its role in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains unclear. This study comprehensively analyzed the expression and clinical significance of HOXB7 in HCC and explored its potential mechanism in tumor progression. We found HOXB7 was highly expressed in HCC cell lines with highly metastatic potential and cancerous tissues from patients with tumor recurrence. The abilities of proliferation, migration, and invasion were notably decreased by depletion of HOXB7, and were enhanced by its enforced expression in vitro. HOXB7 expression was positively correlated with tumor progression and lung metastasis in vivo. The gene microarray data implied that HOXB7 affects biological functions of HCC cells through MAPK/ERK pathway activation. Further study confirmed that the effect of HOXB7 in activating MAPK/ERK pathway via induction of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) secretion, and the inhibition of bFGF secretion could abolish MAPK/ERK pathway activation after ectopic expression of HOXB7. Chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments and luciferase reporter assays confirmed that HOXB7 promoted bFGF secretion via binding its promoter directly. Furthermore, the clinical significance of HOXB7 expression was confirmed using tissue microarrays containing 394 HCC tissue specimens. Patients with high HOXB7 expression showed shorter survival times and higher recurrence rates, and HOXB7 was an independent indicator for survival and recurrence. Overall, HOXB7 promotes HCC cell proliferation, migration, and invasion through the bFGF-induced MAPK/ERK pathway activation. It might be a novel prognostic factor in HCC and a promising therapeutic target for tumor metastasis and recurrence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47121-47135
Number of pages15
Issue number29
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • BFGF
  • HOXB7
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Invasion and metastasis
  • Prognosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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