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01.12.2018 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research 1/2018

Autophagy promotes metastasis and glycolysis by upregulating MCT1 expression and Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway activation in hepatocellular carcinoma cells

Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research > Ausgabe 1/2018
Qing Fan, Liang Yang, Xiaodong Zhang, Yingbo Ma, Yan Li, Lei Dong, Zhihong Zong, Xiangdong Hua, Dongming Su, Hangyu Li, Jingang Liu
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13046-018-0673-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Autophagy is a dynamic physiological process that can generate energy and nutrients for cell survival during stress. Autophagy can regulate the migration and invasive ability in cancer cells. However, the connection between autophagy and metabolism is unclear. Monocarboxylate transporter 1 (MCT1) plays an important role in lactic acid transport and H+ clearance in cancer cells, and Wnt/β-catenin signaling can increase cancer cell glycolysis. We investigated whether autophagy promotes glycolysis in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells by activating the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, accompanied by MCT1 upregulation.


Autophagic activity was evaluated using western blotting, immunoblotting, and transmission electron microscopy. The underlying mechanisms of autophagy activation on HCC cell glycolysis were studied via western blotting, and Transwell, lactate, and glucose assays. MCT1 expression was detected using quantitative reverse transcription–PCR (real-time PCR), western blotting, and immunostaining of HCC tissues and the paired adjacent tissues.


Autophagy promoted HCC cell glycolysis accompanied by MCT1 upregulation. Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway activation mediated the effect of autophagy on HCC cell glycolysis. β-Catenin downregulation inhibited the autophagy-induced glycolysis in HCC cells, and reduced MCT1 expression in the HCC cells. MCT1 was highly expressed in HCC tissues, and high MCT1 expression correlated positively with the expression of microtubule-associated protein light chain 3 (LC3).


Activation of autophagy can promote metastasis and glycolysis in HCC cells, and autophagy induces MCT1 expression by activating Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Our study describes the connection between autophagy and glucose metabolism in HCC cells and may provide a potential therapeutic target for HCC treatment.
Additional file 1: Primers used for Quantitative real-time PCR. (DOCX 67 kb)
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