Background and Aims: The oncogene Melanoma differentiation associated gene-9/syndecan binding protein (MDA-9/SDCBP) is overexpressed in many cancers, promoting aggressive, metastatic disease. However, the role of MDA-9 in regulating hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has not been well studied. Approach and Results: To unravel the function of MDA-9 in HCC, we generated and characterized a transgenic mouse with hepatocyte-specific overexpression of MDA-9 (Alb/MDA-9). Compared with wild-type (WT) littermates, Alb/MDA-9 mice demonstrated significantly higher incidence of N-nitrosodiethylamine/phenobarbital-induced HCC, with marked activation and infiltration of macrophages. RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) in naive WT and Alb/MDA-9 hepatocytes identified activation of signaling pathways associated with invasion, angiogenesis, and inflammation, especially NF-κB and integrin-linked kinase signaling pathways. In nonparenchymal cells purified from naive livers, single-cell RNA-seq showed activation of Kupffer cells and macrophages in Alb/MDA-9 mice versus WT mice. A robust increase in the expression of Secreted phosphoprotein 1 (Spp1/osteopontin) was observed upon overexpression of MDA-9. Inhibition of NF-κB pathway blocked MDA-9–induced Spp1 induction, and knock down of Spp1 resulted in inhibition of MDA-9–induced macrophage migration, as well as angiogenesis. Conclusions: Alb/MDA-9 is a mouse model with MDA-9 overexpression in any tissue type. Our findings unravel an HCC-promoting role of MDA-9 mediated by NF-κB and Spp1 and support the rationale of using MDA-9 inhibitors as a potential treatment for aggressive HCC.
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