It is well known that Prospero homeobox 1 (PROX1) is a crucial regulator of lymphangiogenesis, that reprograms blood endothelial cells to lymphatic phenotype. However, the role of PROX1 in tumor progression, especially in angiogenesis remains controversial. Herein, we studied the role of PROX1 in angiogenesis in cell lines derived from follicular thyroid cancer (FTC: FTC-133) and squamous cell carcinoma of the thyroid gland (SCT: CGTH-W-1) upon PROX1
knockdown. The genes involved in angiogenesis were selected by RNA-seq, and the impact of PROX1 on vascularization potential was investigated using human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) cultured in conditioned medium collected from FTC- or SCT-derived cancer cell lines after PROX1 silencing. The angiogenic phenotype was examined in connection with the analysis of focal adhesion and correlated with fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) levels. Additionally, the expression of selected genes involved in angiogenesis was detected in human FTC tissues. As a result, we demonstrated that PROX1
knockdown resulted in upregulation of factors associated with vascularization, such as metalloproteinases (MMP1 and 3), FGF2, vascular endothelial growth factors C (VEGFC), BAI1 associated protein 2 (BAIAP2), nudix hydrolase 6 (NUDT6), angiopoietin 1 (ANGPT1), and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (KDR). The observed molecular changes resulted in the enhanced formation of capillary-like structures by HUVECs and upregulated focal adhesion in FTC-133 and CGTH-W-1 cells. The signature of selected angiogenic genes’ expression in a series of FTC specimens varied depending on the case. Interestingly, PROX1
showed opposing expression levels in FTC tissues and seven thyroid tumor-derived cell lines. In summary, our data revealed that PROX1 is involved in the spreading of thyroid cancer cells by regulation of angiogenesis.
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