Bufalin suppresses hepatocellular carcinogenesis by targeting M2 macrophage-governed Wnt1/beta-catenin signaling

pubmed: wnt1 2024-05-26

Phytomedicine. 2024 Apr;126:155395. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2024.155395. Epub 2024 Jan 30.


BACKGROUND: The interplay of tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) and tumor cells plays a key role in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and provides an important target for HCC therapy. The communication between them is still on the investigation. Bufalin, the active component derived from the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) Chansu, has been evidenced to possess anti-HCC activity by directly suppressing tumor cells, while its immunomodulatory effect on the tumor microenvironment (TME) is unclear.

PURPOSE: To explore the mechanism of M2 TAM-governed tumor cell proliferation and the inhibitory effect of bufalin on HCC growth by targeting M2 macrophages.

METHODS: Morphology and marker proteins were detected to evaluate macrophage polarization via microscopy and flow cytometry. Cellular proliferation and malignant transformation of HCC cells cultured with macrophage conditioned medium (CM) or bufalin-primed M2-CM, were assessed by cell viability, colony formation and soft agar assays. Regulations of gene transcription and protein expression and release were determined by RT-qPCR, immunoblotting, immunoprecipitation, ELISA and immunofluorescence. Tumorigenicity upon bufalin treatment was verified in orthotopic and diethylnitrosamine-induced HCC mouse model.

RESULTS: In this study, we first verified that M2 macrophages secreted Wnt1, which acted as a mediator to trigger β-catenin activation in HCC cells, leading to cellular proliferation. Bufalin suppressed HCC cell proliferation and malignant transformation by inhibiting Wnt1 release in M2 macrophages, and dose-dependently inhibited HCC progression in mice. Mechanistically, bufalin specially targeted to block Wnt1 transcription, thus inactivating β-catenin signaling cascade in HCC cells and leading to tumor regression in HCC mouse model.

CONCLUSION: These results clearly reveal a novel potential of bufalin to suppress HCC through immunomodulation, and shed light on a new M2 macrophage-based modality of HCC immunotherapy, which additively enhances direct tumor-inhibitory efficacy of bufalin.

PMID:38340578 | DOI:10.1016/j.phymed.2024.155395