BACKGROUND: Although fibroblast growth factor 19 (FGF19) can promote liver carcinogenesis in mice, its involvement in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has not been well investigated. FGF19, a member of the FGF family, has unique specificity for its receptor FGFR4. This study aimed to clarify the involvement of FGF19 in the development of HCC.
METHODS: We investigated human FGF19 and FGFR4 expression in 40 hepatocellular carcinoma specimens using quantitative real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis and immunohistochemistry. Moreover, we examined the expression and the distribution of FGF19 and FGFR4 in 5 hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines (HepG2, HuH7, HLE, HLF, and JHH7) using RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry. To test the role of the FGF19/FGFR4 system in tumor progression, we used recombinant FGF19 protein and small interfering RNA (siRNA) of FGF19 and FGFR4 to regulate their concentrations.
RESULTS: We found that FGF19 was significantly overexpressed in HCCs as compared with corresponding noncancerous liver tissue (P < 0.05). Univariate and multivariate analyses revealed that the tumor FGF19 mRNA expression was an independent prognostic factor for overall and disease-free survival. Moreover, we found that the FGF19 recombinant protein could increase the proliferation (P < 0.01, n = 12) and invasion (P < 0.01, n = 6) capabilities of human hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines and inhibited their apoptosis (P < 0.01, n = 12). Inversely, decreasing FGF19 and FGFR4 expression by siRNA significantly inhibited proliferation and increased apoptosis in JHH7 cells (P < 0.01, n = 12). The postoperative serum FGF19 levels in HCC patients was significantly lower than the preoperative levels (P < 0.01, n = 29).
CONCLUSIONS: FGF19 is critically involved in the development of HCCs. Targeting FGF19 inhibition is an attractive potential therapeutic strategy for HCC.