Human epididymis protein 4 (HE4) plays a key role in ovarian cancer cell adhesion and motility

Renquan Lu, Xinghui Sun, Ran Xiao, Lei Zhou, Xiang Gao, Lin Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Human epididymis protein 4 (HE4) is a novel and specific biomarker for epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). We previously demonstrated that serum HE4 levels were significantly elevated in the majority of EOC patients but not in subjects with benign disease or healthy controls. However, the precise mechanism of HE4 protein function is unknown. In this study, we generated HE4-overexpressing SKOV3 cells and found that stably transduced cells promoted cell adhesion and migration. Knockdown of HE4 expression was achieved by stable transfection of SKOV3 cells with a construct encoding a short hairpin DNA directed against the HE4 gene. Correspondingly, the proliferation and spreading ability of HE4-expressed cells were inhibited by HE4 suppression. Mechanistically, impaired EGFR and Erk1/2 phosphorylation were observed in cells with HE4 knockdown. The phosphorylation was restored when the knockdown cells were cultured in conditioned medium containing HE4. Moreover, . in vivo tumorigenicity showed that HE4 suppression markedly inhibited the growth of tumors. This suggests that expression of HE4 is associated with cancer cell adhesion, migration and tumor growth, which can be related to its effects on the EGFR-MAPK signaling pathway. Our results provide evidence of the cellular and molecular mechanisms that may underlie the motility-promoting role of HE4 in EOC progression. The role of HE4 as a target for gene-based therapy might be considered in future studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-280
Number of pages7
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 9 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Human epididymis protein 4
  • MAPK signaling pathway
  • Ovarian neoplasm
  • RNA interference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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