Sanming Project of Medicine in Shenzhen
National Natural Science Foundation of China
China Postdoctoral Science Foundation
Guangzhou Basic and Applied Basic Research Foundation
Medical Scientific Research Foundation of Guangdong Province of China
ARTICLE ABSTRACTLymphatic metastasis is a common clinical symptom in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), the most common Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated head and neck malignancy. However, the effect of EBV on NPC lymph node (LN) metastasis is still unclear. In this study, we demonstrated that EBV infection is strongly associated with advanced clinical N stage and lymphangiogenesis of NPC. We found that NPC cells infected with EBV promote LN metastasis by inducing cancer-associated lymphangiogenesis, whereas these changes were abolished upon clearance of EBV genomes. Mechanistically, EBV-induced VEGF-C contributed to lymphangiogenesis and LN metastasis, and PHLPP1, a target of miR-BART15, partially contributed to AKT/HIF1a hyperactivity and subsequent VEGF-C transcriptional activation. In addition, administration of anti-VEGF-C antibody or HIF1α inhibitors attenuated the lymphangiogenesis and LN metastasis induced by EBV. Finally, we verified the clinical significance of this prometastatic EBV/VEGF-C axis by determining the expression of PHLPP1, AKT, HIF1a, and VEGF-C in NPC specimens with and without EBV. These results uncover a reasonable mechanism for the EBV-modulated LN metastasis microenvironment in NPC, indicating that EBV is a potential therapeutic target for NPC with lymphatic metastasis.
This research demonstrates that EBV induces lymphangiogenesis in NPC by regulating PHLPP1/p-AKT/HIF1a/VEGF-C, providing a new therapeutic target for NPC with lymphatic metastasis.