Glycyrrhizic Acid-Induced Differentiation Repressed Stemness in Hepatocellular Carcinoma by Targeting c-Jun N-Terminal Kinase 1.
Front Oncol. 2019 ;9:1431. Epub 2020 Jan 9. PMID: 31998631
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common malignant cancers with poor prognosis and high incidence. Cancer stem cells play a vital role in tumor initiation and malignancy. The degree of differentiation of HCC is closely related to its stemness. Glycyrrhizic acid (GA) plays a critical role in inhibiting the degree of malignancy of HCC. At present, the effect of GA on the differentiation and stemness of HCC has not been reported, and its pharmacological mechanism remains to be elucidated. This study evaluated the effect of GA on the stemness of HCC and investigated its targets through proteomics and chemical biology. Results showed that GA can repress stemness and induce differentiation in HCC. GEO analysis revealed that cell differentiation and stem cell pluripotency were up-regulated and down-regulated after GA administration, respectively. Virtual screening was used to predict the c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1) as a direct target of GA. Moreover, chemical biology was used to verify the interaction of JNK1 and GA. Experimental data further indicated that JNK1 inhibits stemness and induces differentiation of HCC. GA exerts its function by targeting JNK1. Clinical data analysis from The Cancer Genome Atlas also revealed that JNK1 can aggravate the degree of malignancy of HCC. The results indicated that, by targeting JNK1, GA can inhibit tumor growth through inducing differentiation and repressing stemness. Furthermore, GA enhanced the anti-tumor effects of sorafenib in HCC treatment. These results broadened our insight into the pharmacological mechanism of GA and the importance of JNK1 as a therapeutic target for HCC treatment.