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Follicle-stimulating hormone inhibits apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells by regulating the OCT4 stem cell signaling pathway

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OCT4, a stem cell marker, is overexpressed in several types of human cancer and can induce resistance to chemotherapy and inhibition of apoptosis. We previously demonstrated that human follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) can inhibit ovarian cancer cell apoptosis. However, the role of OCT4 in FSH-induced inhibition of apoptosis has not been reported in detail. Here, we profiled OCT4 protein expression in ovarian epithelial cancer (OEC) with benign cystadenoma, borderline tumor and carcinoma tissues as well as different ovarian cancer cell lines and normal ovarian epithelial cells. Furthermore, the effects of FSH on OCT4 expression and related signaling pathways were evaluated. The overexpression of OCT4 in ovarian carcinoma and OEC cell lines suggest that OCT4 plays a critical role in OEC carcinogenesis. Moreover, FSH-induced apoptosis inhibition was confirmed and FSH stimulation induced the expansion of CD44+CD117+ cells with a stem cell-like phenotype. Re-expression of OCT4 enhanced the expression of Notch, Sox2 and Nanog molecules that play critical roles in cancer stem cell proliferation and differentiation. FSH upregulated the expression of Notch, Sox2 and Nanog and these effects were abolished by knocking down OCT4, suggesting that several cancer stem cell pathways are involved in FSH regulation. We also examined OCT4 expression in surgical specimens of ovarian cancer. Immunohistostaining revealed that OCT4 expression was increased in ovarian carcinoma compared with benign cystadenomas and borderline tumors, and OCT4 expression was significantly correlated with histological grade. Staining for OCT4 was increased in serous cystadenocarcinoma, when compared with clear cell carcinoma. In summary, the OCT4 cancer stem cell signaling pathway may mediate FSH-induced inhibition of apoptosis and could provide a target for treatment of ovarian cancer.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University Affiliated First People's Hospital, Shanghai, P.R. China 2: Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, P.R. China 3: Department of Pathology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University Affiliated First People's Hospital, Shanghai, P.R. China 4: Department of Experimental Therapeutics, The University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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  • The International Journal of Oncology provides an international forum for the publication of the latest, cutting-edge research in the broad area of oncology and cancer treatment. The journal accepts original high quality works and reviews on all aspects of oncology research including carcinogenesis, metastasis, epidemiology, chemotherapy and viral oncology. Through fair and efficient peer review, the journal is dedicated to publishing top tier research in the field, offering authors rapid publication as well as high standards of copy-editing and production. The International Journal of Oncology is published on a monthly basis in both print and early online.
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