Long-term di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate exposure reduces sorafenib treatment efficacy by enhancing mesenchymal transition in hepatocellular carcinoma

Ming Syuan Shih, Fat Moon Suk, Wan Chun Chiu, Chun-Ya Lee, Fang Yu Hsu, Yi Jen Liao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is a worldwide common plasticizer. Nevertheless, DEHP is easily leached out to the environment due to the lack of covalent bonds with plastic. High dose of DEHP exposure is often observed in hemodialysis patients because of the continual usage of plastic medical devices. Although the liver is the major organ that catabolizes DEHP, the impact of long-term DEHP exposure on the sensitivity of liver cancer to chemotherapy remains unclear. In this study, we established long-term DEHP-exposed hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells and two NOD/SCID mice models to investigate the effects and the underlying mechanisms of long-term DEHP exposure on chemosensitivity of HCC. The results showed long-term DEHP exposure potentially increased epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in HCC cells. Next generation sequencing showed that long-term DEHP exposure increased cell adhesion/migratory related genes expression and blunted sorafenib treatment induced genes alterations. Long-term exposure to DEHP reduced the sensitivity of HCC cells to sorafenib-induced anti-migratory effect by enhancing the EMT transcription factors (slug, twist, and ZEB1) and mesenchymal protein (vimentin) expression. In NOD/SCID mice model, we showed that long-term DEHP-exposed HCC cells exhibited higher growth rate. Regarding the anti-HCC effects of sorafenib, subcutaneous HuH7 tumor grew slowly in sorafenib-treated mice. Nonetheless, the anti-tumor growth effect of sorafenib was not observed in long-term DEHP-exposed mice. Higher mesenchymal markers and proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) expression were found in sorafenib-treated long-term DEHP-exposed mice. In conclusion, long-term DEHP exposure promoted migratory activity in HCC cells and decreased sorafenib sensitivity in tumor-bearing mice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116161
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Publication statusPublished - Mar 15 2024


  • Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)
  • Drug susceptibility
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Sorafenib

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Long-term di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate exposure reduces sorafenib treatment efficacy by enhancing mesenchymal transition in hepatocellular carcinoma'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this