High FOXK1 expression correlates with poor outcomes in hepatocellular carcinoma and regulates stemness of hepatocellular carcinoma cells.


Jiangsu Center for the Collaboration and Innovation of Cancer Biotherapy, Cancer Institute, Xuzhou Medical University, Xuzhou, China. Electronic address: [Email]


OBJECTIVE : Forkhead box (FOX) proteins constitute a huge family of transcriptional regulators, which are involved in a wide range of cancers. FOXK1 is a little studied member of FOXK subfamily. This study aimed to investigate the potential prognostic value of FOXK1 in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and explore potential underlying mechanisms.
METHODS : We performed bioinformatic analyses to evaluate the prognostic value of FOXK1 expression in human HCC and to reveal the underlying mechanism by which FOXK1 regulates HCC. RT-PCR, FACS analysis and sphere formation assay were carried out to investigate the role of FOXK1 in regulating liver cancer stem cells.
RESULTS : Our results demonstrated that FOXK1 was overexpressed in human HCC and positively correlated with cancer progression. DNA hypomethylation and gene copy number variation contributed to the overexpression of FOXK1. Importantly, high FOXK1 expression was associated with both low overall survival probability (OS) and low relapse free survival probability (RFS) of HCC patients. Intriguingly, we found that high FOXK1 expression was correlated with activation of stem cell-regulating pathways in human HCC. Knockdown of FOXK1 resulted in downregulation of the cancer stem cell marker EpCAM and ALDH1 and decreased sphere-forming ability of hepatocellular carcinoma cells.
CONCLUSIONS : Overall, our study identified FOXK1 as a new biomarker for prognosis of HCC patients and revealed its role in regulating stemness of hepatocellular carcinoma cells.


FOXK1,Hepatocellular carcinoma,Prognosis,Stemness,