Objectives: Aberrant activation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway is common in human cancers, including cervical cancer. The secreted frizzled-related proteins (SFRPs) function as Wnt antagonists and play important implications in carcinogenesis. Recently, we have shown that SFRP1 and SFRP2 are frequently downregulated through promoter hypermethylation. However, the function of SFRP1 and SFRP2 in cervical cancer remains unclear. Methods: To improve our understanding of the role of SFRP1 and SFRP2 in cervical cancer cells, we use overexpression or shRNA approach in cervical cancer cell lines. Results: Restoration of the expression of SFRP1 and SFRP2 attenuated Wnt signaling in CaSki cells, decreased abnormal accumulation of free β-catenin in the nucleus, and suppressed cancer cell growth. In addition, different statuses of β-catenin accumulation in the cytoplasm of CaSki or HeLa3rd cells were observed, suggesting that different Wnt pathways are executed. Furthermore, we demonstrated that SFRP1 and SFRP2 enhance the expression of the epithelial marker E-cadherin, through inhibition of the expression of SLUG, TWIST and SNAIL, three transcription factors involved in the epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) program. Finally, in a xenograft animal model, we showed that SFRP1 suppresses tumorigenicity of cancer cells in vivo. Conclusions: Taken together, these data strongly suggest that epigenetic silencing of SFRP genes leads to oncogenic activation of the Wnt pathway and contributes to cervical cancer progression through the EMT program.
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