Liver Cancer Institute and Zhongshan Hospital, Institutes of Biomedical Sciences, Fudan University, Key Laboratory of Carcinogenesis and Cancer Invasion, Ministry of Education, Shanghai 200032, P.R. China.
Osteopontin (OPN) may facilitate tumorigenesis and metastasis through prevention of tumor cells from apoptosis. Although previous studies have suggested involvement of enhanced Bcl-2 protein family expression, the role of OPN together with Bcl-2 in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains unknown. In this study, we used western blotting to detect the OPN and Bcl-2 expression levels in cell lines with different OPN backgrounds and HCC tissues, and tumor tissue microarrays to examine OPN and Bcl-2 expression levels in 454 HCC cases. The Kaplan-Meier method and log-rank test were applied to investigate the predictive values of OPN and Bcl-2 in HCC patients. In vitro assays indicated that OPN expression increased concordantly with increasing metastatic potential in MHCC97-H, MHCC97-L, HepG2 and SMMC-7721 cell lines by western blotting, whereas Bcl-2 expression declined. In addition, Bcl-2 was highly upregulated in OPN knockdown MHCC97-H cell lines. Furthermore, in HCC tissues, it was confirmed that OPN levels were also significantly higher in recurrent tumor tissues compared to non-recurrent tissues by western blotting (p<0.001), whereas the contrary occurred in Bcl-2 (p=0.046). Using immunohistochemistry analysis, patients with higher OPN levels had significantly shorter median survival time and recurrence time compared to the lower ones, although the opposite occurred in Bcl-2 levels. Of note, when OPN and Bcl-2 were combined, we found that the co-index of OPN/Bcl-2 was an independent prognostic factor for both overall survival (p<0.001) and time to recurrence (p<0.001). Our findings demonstrate that OPN/Bcl-2 expression is a promising independent predictor of recurrence and survival in HCC. Additionally, Bcl-2 levels may be regulated by OPN in the HCC microenvironment.