The Acute Transcriptomic and Proteomic Response of HC-04 Hepatoma Cells to Hepatocyte Growth Factor and its Implications for Plasmodium falciparum Sporozoite Invasion.
The routine study of human malaria liver-stage biology in vitro is hampered by low infection efficiency of human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) lines (<0.1%), poor understanding of steady-state HCC biology, and lack of appropriate tools for trace sample analysis. HC-04 is the only HCC that supports complete development of human malaria parasites. We hypothesized that HCCs are in various intermediate stages of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and HC-04s retain epithelial characteristics that permit infection. We developed a facile analytical approach to test this hypothesis viz. the HC-04 response to hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). We used online two-dimensional liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (2D-LC-MS/MS) to quantify protein expression profiles in HC-04 pre-/post-HGF treatment and validated these results by RT-qPCR and microscopy. We successfully increased protein identification efficiency over offline-2D methods by 12-fold, using less sample material, allowing robust protein quantification. We observed expected up-regulation and down-regulation of EMT protein markers in response to HGF, but also unexpected cellular responses. We also observed that HC-04 is generally more susceptible to HGF-mediated signaling than what was observed for HepG2, a widely used, but poor malaria liver stage-HCC model. Our analytical approach to understanding the basic biology of HC-04 helps us understand the factors that may influence its utility as a model for malaria liver-stage development. We observed that HC-04 treatment with HGF prior to the addition of Plasmodium falciparum sporozoites did not facilitate cell invasion, which suggests unlinking the effect of HGF on malaria liver stage development from hepatocyte invasion. Finally, our 2D-LC-MS/MS approach and broadly applicable experimental strategy should prove useful in the analysis of various hepatocyte-pathogen interactions, tumor progression, and early disease events.