The miR-200b–ZEB1 circuit regulates diverse stemness of human hepatocellular carcinoma

Shu Chun Tsai, Chen Chun Lin, Tsung Chieh Shih, Rong Jeng Tseng, Ming Chin Yu, Yu Jr Lin, Sen Yung Hsieh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

39 Scopus citations


Accumulating evidence suggests that human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) can be derived from cancer stem cells (CSCs), which contribute to tumor initiation, metastasis, chemoresistance, and recurrence. A great variety of HCC CSCs resulting in diverse clinical manifestations have been reported. However, how CSC diversity is regulated and generated remains unclear. Here we report that the miR-200b–ZEB1 circuit is closely involved with the induction and maintenance of a diverse group of CSCs. We found that miR-200b downregulation occurred in early HCC and associated with poor prognosis. The downregulation was attributable to genome deletion and promoter methylation of the miR-200a/b/429 gene. Ectopic expression of miR-200b or silencing of ZEB1 led to a decrease in CD13+ and CD24+ HCC CSCs and an increase in EpCAM+ HCC CSCs. Mechanistically, miR-200b directly suppressed BMI1 and ZEB1 expressions. ZEB1 recognized promoters of CD13, CD24, and EpCAM genes resulting in CD13 and CD24 upregulation and EpCAM downregulation. Neither miR-200b nor ZEB1 had obvious effects on CD133 or CD90 expression. Silencing CD13 or CD24 expression suppressed tumorigenicity of HCC cells. Ectopic expression of CD24 reversed the suppression of tumorigenicity by ectopic expression of miR-200b. Clinically, miR-200b downregulation was coupled with ZEB1 upregulation in approximately two-thirds of HCC patients. ZEB1 expression was positively correlated with CD13 and CD24 expressions in HCCs, while miR-200b expression was positively correlated with EpCAM. Our findings suggest that the miR-200b–ZEB1 circuit is a master regulator of diverse stemness of HCC, which differentiates HCCs into those containing CD13+/CD24+ CSCs from those containing EpCAM+ CSCs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2035-2047
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Carcinogenesis
Issue number9
StatePublished - 09 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • CD24
  • ZEB1
  • cancer stem cells
  • hepatoma
  • miR-200b
  • microRNA


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