Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a leading cause of death worldwide. Current therapies are effective for HCC patients with early disease, but many patients suffer recurrence after surgery and have a poor response to chemotherapy. Therefore, new therapeutic targets are needed. We analyzed gene expression profiles between HCC tissues and normal adjacent tissues from public databases and found that the expression of genes involved in lipid metabolism was significantly different. The analysis showed that AKR1C3 was upregulated in tumors, and high AKR1C3 expression was associated with a poorer prognosis in HCC patients. In vitro, assays demonstrated that the knockdown of AKR1C3 or the addition of the AKR1C3 inhibitor indomethacin suppressed the growth and colony formation of HCC cell lines. Knockdown of AKR1C3 in Huh7 cells reduced tumor growth in vivo. To explore the mechanism, we performed pathway enrichment analysis, and the results linked the expression of AKR1C3 with prostaglandin F2 alpha (PGF2α) downstream target genes. Suppression of AKR1C3 activity reduced the production of PGF2α, and supplementation with PGF2α restored the growth of indomethacin-treated Huh7 cells. Knockdown of the PGF receptor (PTGFR) and treatment with a PTGFR inhibitor significantly reduced HCC growth. We showed that indomethacin potentiated the sensitivity of Huh7 cells to sorafenib. In summary, our results indicate that AKR1C3 upregulation may promote HCC growth by promoting the production of PGF2α, and suppression of PTGFR limited HCC growth. Therefore, targeting the AKR1C3-PGF2α-PTGFR axis may be a new strategy for the treatment of HCC.
- Aldo-keto reductase family member C3
- Hepatocellular carcinoma
- Prostaglandin F receptor
- Prostaglandin F2 alpha