Tumor angiogenesis is essential for invasive tumor growth and metastasis. Dickkopf-1 (DKK-1), an antagonist of Wnt signaling, participates in tumor development and progression. We evaluated whether DKK-1 stimulation induces angiogenesis and the endothelial-mesenchymal transition (EnMT). Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were stimulated with recombinant DKK-1 (rDDK-1) or conditioned medium from a culture of DKK-1-transfected 293 cells. Following stimulation, the expression levels of angiogenesis-related factors and EnMT related markers were determined by immunoblot assays. In addition, the effects of exogenous DKK-1 on angiogenesis and EnMT were assessed by tube-formation, cell invasion, and wound-healing assays. Human hepatoma cells, such as Hep3B and Huh-7, showed high levels of DKK-1 expression, whereas 293 cells and HUVECs showed little or no DKK-1 expression. Increased endothelial cell tube formation and invasiveness were observed in HUVECs treated with concentrated conditioned medium from DKK-1-overexpressing 293 cells or rDKK-1. DKK-1-stimulated HUVECs also exhibited increased motility in wound-healing assays. Furthermore, the expression levels of angiogenesis-related factors, including vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 and vascular endothelial-cadherin, were increased in DKK-1-stimulated HUVECs. The expression of EnMT markers, such as vimentin and Twist, was also increased in DKK-1-stimulated HUVECs. However, no significant change in ß-catenin or GSK3ß expression was observed. Our in vitro data suggest that DKK-1 can enhance angiogenesis and EnMT by HUVECs independent of the Wnt signaling pathway. Modulation of DKK-1 expression may facilitate development of novel strategies to control tumor angiogenesis and metastasis.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning (2014R1A1A1008585 and 2016R1A1A1A05005138) and by Research of Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (HD15A0351). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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