Theranostics 2019; 9(10):2967-2983. doi:10.7150/thno.30562 This issue

Research Paper

Lgr5-mediated p53 Repression through PDCD5 leads to doxorubicin resistance in Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Zhili Ma*, Deliang Guo*, Quanxiong Wang*, Pengpeng Liu, Yushao Xiao, Ping Wu, Yitao Wang, Baiyang Chen, Zhisu Liu, Quanyan Liu

Department of General Surgery, Research Center of Digestive Diseases, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan 430071, P.R. China
*These authors contributed equally to this work

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
Ma Z, Guo D, Wang Q, Liu P, Xiao Y, Wu P, Wang Y, Chen B, Liu Z, Liu Q. Lgr5-mediated p53 Repression through PDCD5 leads to doxorubicin resistance in Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Theranostics 2019; 9(10):2967-2983. doi:10.7150/thno.30562. Available from

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Graphic abstract

The devastating prognosis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is partially attributed to chemotherapy resistance. Accumulating evidence suggests that the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a key driving force of carcinoma metastasis and chemoresistance in solid tumors. Leucine-rich repeat-containing G protein-coupled receptor 5 (Lgr5), as an EMT inducer, is involved in the potentiation of Wnt signaling in HCC. This study proposes uncovering the roles of Lgr5 in Doxorubicin (Dox) resistance of HCC to improve treatment efficacy for HCC.

Methods: We investigated the expression and significance of Lgr5 in HCC tissue and different cell lines. The effect of Lgr5 in EMT and Dox resistance was analyzed in HCC cells and implanted HCC tumor models. A two-hybrid analysis, using the Lgr5 gene as the bait and a HCC cDNA library, was used to screen targeted proteins that interact with Lgr5. The positive clones were identified by coimmunoprecipitation (Co-IP) and Glutathione-S-transferase (GST) pull-down. The impact of the interaction on Dox resistance was investigated by a series of assays in vitro and in vivo .

Result: We found that Lgr5 was upregulated and positively correlated with poor prognosis in HCC. Additionally, it functioned as a tumor promoter to increase cell migration and induce EMT in HCC cells and increase the resistance to Dox. We identified programmed cell death protein 5 (PDCD5) as a target gene of Lgr5 and we found that PDCD5 was responsible for Lgr5-mediated Dox resistance. Further analysis with Co-IP and GST pull-down assays showed that the N-terminal extracellular domain of Lgr5 could directly bind to PDCD5. Lgr5 induced p53 degradation by blocking the nuclear translocation of PDCD5 and leading to the loss of p53 stabilization. Lgr5 showed a protection against the inhibition of Dox on the growth of tumor subcutaneously injected. Moreover, Lgr5 suppressed Dox-induced apoptosis via the p53 pathway and attenuated the cytotoxicity of Dox to HCC.

Conclusion: Lgr5 induces the EMT and inhibits apoptosis, thus promoting chemoresistance by regulating the PDCD5/p53 signaling axis. Furthermore, Lgr5 may be a potential target gene for overcoming Dox resistance.

Keywords: Lgr5, PDCD5, hepatocellular carcinoma, resistance