Non-canonical Hedgehog signaling contributes to chemotaxis in cholangiocarcinoma

Nataliya Razumilava, Sergio A. Gradilone, Rory L. Smoot, Joachim C. Mertens, Steven F. Bronk, Alphonse E. Sirica, Gregory J. Gores

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Background & Aims The Hedgehog signaling pathway contributes to cholangiocarcinoma biology. However, canonical Hedgehog signaling requires cilia, and cholangiocarcinoma cells often do not express cilia. To resolve this paradox, we examined non-canonical (G-protein coupled, pertussis toxin sensitive) Hedgehog signaling in cholangiocarcinoma cells. Methods Human [non-malignant (H69), malignant (HuCC-T1 and Mz-ChA-1)] and rat [non-malignant (BDE1 and NRC), and malignant (BDEneu)] cell lines were employed for this study. A BDEΔLoop2 cell line with the dominant-negative receptor Patched-1 was generated with the Sleeping Beauty transposon transfection system. Results Cilia expression was readily identified in non-malignant, but not in malignant cholangiocarcinoma cell lines. Although the canonical Hh signaling pathway was markedly attenuated in cholangiocarcinoma cells, they were chemotactic to purmorphamine, a small-molecule direct Smoothened agonist. Purmorphamine also induced remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton with formation of filopodia and lamellipodia-like protrusions. All these biological features of cell migration were pertussis toxin sensitive, a feature of G-protein coupled (Gis) receptors. To further test the role of Hedgehog signaling in vivo, we employed a syngeneic orthotopic rat model of cholangiocarcinoma. In vivo, genetic inhibition of the Hedgehog signaling pathway employing BDE ΔLoop2 cells or pharmacological inhibition with a small-molecule antagonist of Smoothened, vismodegib, was tumor and metastasis suppressive. Conclusions Cholangiocarcinoma cells exhibit non-canonical Hedgehog signaling with chemotaxis despite impaired cilia expression. This non-canonical Hedgehog signaling pathway appears to contribute to cholangiocarcinoma progression, thereby, supporting a role for Hedgehog pathway inhibition in human cholangiocarcinoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)599-605
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by NIH grants DK59427 (GJG), CA83650 (AES), T32 DK007198 (NR), and R21CA166635 (SAG). Additional support was received from the Mayo Clinic and the NIDDK funded Genetics and Optical Microscopy Cores of the Mayo Clinic Center for Cell Signaling in Gastroenterology (P30DK084567).

Funding Information:
The underlying research reported in the study was funded by the NIH Institutes of Health.


  • Biliary tract cancer
  • Dominant-negative Ptch1
  • G-protein coupled receptor
  • Patched-1
  • Smoothened


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