CXCR4 expression affects overall survival of HCC patients whereas CXCR7 expression does not

Maria Neve Polimeno, Caterina Ierano, Crescenzo D'Alterio, Nunzia Simona Losito, Maria Napolitano, Luigi Portella, Giosuè Scognamiglio, Fabiana Tatangelo, Anna Maria Trotta, Steven Curley, Susan Costantini, Raffaele Liuzzi, Francesco Izzo, Stefania Scala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a heterogeneous disease with a poor prognosis and limited markers for predicting patient survival. Because chemokines and chemokine receptors play numerous and integral roles in HCC disease progression, the CXCR4-CXCL12-CXCR7 axis was studied in HCC patients. CXCR4 and CXCR7 expression was analyzed by immunohistochemistry in 86 HCC patients (training cohort) and validated in 42 unrelated HCC patients (validation cohort). CXCR4 levels were low in 22.1% of patients, intermediate in 30.2%, and high in 47.7%, whereas CXCR7 levels were low in 9.3% of patients, intermediate in 44.2% and high in 46.5% of the patients in the training cohort. When correlated to patient outcome, only CXCR4 affected overall survival (P=0.03). CXCR4-CXCL12-CXCR7 mRNA levels were examined in 33/86 patients. Interestingly, the common CXCR4-CXCR7 ligand CXCL12 was expressed at significantly lower levels in tumor tissues compared to adjacent normal liver (P=0.032). The expression and function of CXCR4 and CXCR7 was also analyzed in several human HCC cell lines. CXCR4 was expressed in Huh7, Hep3B, SNU398, SNU449 and SNU475 cells, whereas CXCR7 was expressed in HepG2, Huh7, SNU449 and SNU475 cells. Huh7, SNU449 and SNU475 cells migrated toward CXCL12, and this migration was inhibited by AMD3100/anti-CXCR4 and by CCX771/anti-CXCR7. Moreover, SNU449 and Huh7 cells exhibited matrix invasion in the presence of CXCL12 and CXCL11, a ligand exclusive to CXCR7. In conclusion, CXCR4 affects the prognosis of HCC patients but CXCR7 does not. Therefore, the CXCR4-CXCL12-CXCR7 axis plays a role in the interaction of HCC with the surrounding normal tissue and represents a suitable therapeutic target.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)474-482
Number of pages9
JournalCellular and Molecular Immunology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 7 2015


  • CXCL12
  • CXCR4
  • CXCR7
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • prognosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Immunology

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