Chern Y, et al. Cancer Biol Med 2020.
Objective: Heat shock protein 47 (HSP47) is a collagen-specific molecular chaperone that facilitates collagen maturation. Its role in cancer remains largely unknown. In this study, we investigated the roles of HSP47 in colorectal cancer (CRC) and therapy resistance. Methods: Expression of HSP47 in CRC tissues was examined (1) in paired human CRC/adjacent normal tissues, using real time quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) database, and 22 independent microarray databases (curated CRC). In vitro studies on several CRC cell lines (HCT116, RKO and CCL228) with modulated HSP47 expression were conducted to assess cell viability and apoptosis (TUNEL assay and caspase-3/-7) during exposure to chemotherapy. AKT signaling and co-immunoprecipitation studies were performed to examine HSP47 and PHLPP1 interaction. In vivo studies using tumor xenografts were conducted to assess the effects of HSP47 modulation on tumor growth and therapy response. Results: HSP47 was upregulated in CRC and was associated with poor prognosis in individuals with CRC. In vitro, HSP47 overexpression supported the survival of CRC cells, whereas its knockdown sensitized cells to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU). HSP47 promoted survival by inhibiting apoptosis, enhancing AKT phosphorylation, and decreasing expression of the AKT-specific phosphatase PHLPP1 when cells were exposed to chemotherapy. These effects were partly results of the interaction between HSP47 and PHLPP1, which decreased PHLPP1 stability and led to more persistent AKT activity. In vivo, HSP47 supported tumor growth despite 5-FU treatment. Conclusions: HSP47 supports the growth of CRC tumors and suppresses the efficacy of chemotherapy via modulation of AKT signaling.