Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common cancers in Taiwan. Although chemotherapy is the primary treatment for HCC patients, drug resistance often leads to clinical failure. Galectin-1 is a beta-galactoside binding lectin which is up-regulated in HCC patients and promotes tumor growth by mediating cancer cell adhesion, migration and proliferation, but its role in chemoresistance of HCC is poorly understood. In this study we found that galectin-1 is able to lead to chemoresistance against cisplatin treatment, and subsequent inhibition has reversed the effect of cell death in HCC cells. Moreover, galectin- 1 was found to induce autophagic flux in HCC cells. Inhibition of autophagy by inhibitors or knockdown of Atg5 cancels galectin-1-induced cisplatin resistance in HCC cells. Increase of mitophagy triggered by galectin-1 was found to reduce the mitochondrial potential loss and apoptosis induced by cisplatin treatment. Finally, using an in situ hepatoma mouse model, we clearly demonstrated that inhibition of galectin-1 by thiodigalactoside could significantly augment the anti-HCC effect of cisplatin. Taken together, our findings offer a new insight into the chemoresistance galectin-1 causes against cisplatin treatment, and points to a potential approach to improve the efficacy of cisplatin in the treatment of HCC patients.
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