Background: The rate of morbidity and mortality of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in Taiwan has not lessened because of difficulty in treating tumor metastasis. Norcantharidin (NCTD) is currently used as an anticancer drug for hepatoma, breast cancer, and colorectal adenocarcinoma. NCTD possesses various biological anticancer activities, including apoptosis. However, detailed effects and molecular mechanisms of NCTD on metastasis are unclear. Thus, HCC cells were subjected to treatment with NCTD and then analyzed to determine the effects of NCTD on cell metastasis. Methodology/Principal Findings: Modified Boyden chamber assays revealed that NCTD treatment inhibited cell migration and invasion capacities of HCC cells substantially. Results of zymography and western blotting showed that activities and protein levels of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) and urokinase plasminogen activator (u-PA) were inhibited by NCTD. Western blot analysis showed that NCTD inhibits phosphorylation of ERK1/2. Testing of mRNA level, quantitative real-time PCR, and promoter assays evaluated the inhibitory effects of NCTD on MMP-9 and u-PA expression in HCC cells. The chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay for analyzing the genomic DNA sequences bound to these proteins was reactive to the transcription protein nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB, which was inhibited by NCTD. The expression of NF-kappa B was measured by western blot analysis, which revealed decreased nuclear-factor DNA-binding activity after NCTD treatment. Conclusions: NCTD inhibited MMP-9 and u-PA expression through the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and NF-kappaB signaling pathway which serves as a powerful chemopreventive agent in HCC cell metastasis.
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