SPHK1 (sphingosine kinase 1) induces epithelial-mesenchymal transition by promoting the autophagy-linked lysosomal degradation of CDH1/E-cadherin in hepatoma cells

SPHK1 (sphingosine kinase 1), a regulator of sphingolipid metabolites, plays a causal role in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) through augmenting HCC invasion and metastasis. However, the mechanism by which SPHK1 signaling promotes invasion and metastasis in HCC remains to be clarified. Here, we reported that SPHK1 induced the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) by accelerating CDH1/E-cadherin lysosomal degradation and facilitating the invasion and metastasis of HepG2 cells. Initially, we found that SPHK1 promoted cell migration and invasion and induced the EMT process through decreasing the expression of CDH1, which is an epithelial marker. Furthermore, SPHK1 accelerated the lysosomal degradation of CDH1 to induce EMT, which depended on TRAF2 (TNF receptor associated factor 2)-mediated macroautophagy/autophagy activation. In addition, the inhibition of autophagy recovered CDH1 expression and reduced cell migration and invasion through delaying the degradation of CDH1 in SPHK1-overexpressing cells. Moreover, the overexpression of SPHK1 produced intracellular sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P). In response to S1P stimulation, TRAF2 bound to BECN1/Beclin 1 and catalyzed the lysine 63-linked ubiquitination of BECN1 for triggering autophagy. The deletion of the RING domain of TRAF2 inhibited autophagy and the interaction of BECN1 and TRAF2. Our findings define a novel mechanism responsible for the regulation of the EMT via SPHK1-TRAF2-BECN1-CDH1 signal cascades in HCC cells. Our work indicates that the blockage of SPHK1 activity to attenuate autophagy may be a promising strategy for the prevention and treatment of HCC.