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Open Access Research article

Herbal compound “Songyou Yin” attenuates hepatoma cell invasiveness and metastasis through downregulation of cytokines secreted by activated hepatic stellate cells

Qing-An Jia1, Zhi-Ming Wang1, Zheng-Gang Ren1, Yang Bu12, Xiao-Ying Xie1, Yan-Hong Wang1, Lan Zhang1, Qiang-Bo Zhang1, Tong-Chun Xue1, Li-Fen Deng1 and Zhao-You Tang1*

Author Affiliations

1 Liver Cancer Institute, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University; Key Laboratory of Carcinogenesis and Cancer Invasion, Ministry of Education, Shanghai 200032, China

2 Institutes of Biomedical Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, China

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:89  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-89

Published: 27 April 2013



Activated hepatic stellate cells (aHSCs) play an important role in the progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Here, we determined if cytokines secreted in response to the herbal compound “Songyou Yin” (SYY) treatment of aHSCs could influence invasiveness and metastatic capabilities of hepatoma cells.


Primary rat hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) were isolated, activated, divided into SYY treated and untreated (nSYY) groups, and conditioned media (CM-SYY and CM-nSYY, respectively) were collected. The hepatoma cell line, McA-RH7777 was cultured for 4 weeks with SYY, CM-SYY, and CM-nSYY, designated McA-SYY, McA-SYYCM and McA-nSYYCM. The invasiveness and metastatic capabilities were evaluated using Matrigel invasion assay in vitro and pulmonary metastasis in vivo. Matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2), MMP-9, E-cadherin, N-cadherin, and vimentin protein levels in McA-SYYCM and McA-nSYYCM were evaluated by Western blot. Cytokine levels in conditioned media were tested using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).


Matrigel invasion assay indicated that the number of McA-SYYCM cells passing through the basement membrane was less than in McA-nSYYCM cells (P < 0.01). Similar results were also observed in vivo for lung metastasis. McA-SYYCM cells showed less pulmonary metastasis capabilities than McA-nSYYCM cells (P < 0.001). The reduced expression of MMP-2 and reversed epithelial to mesenchymal transition with E-cadherin upregulation, and N-cadherin and vimentin downregulation were also found in McA-SYYCM compared to McA-nSYYCM. Metastasis-promoting cytokines hepatocyte growth factor, interleukin-6, transforming growth factor-β1, and vascular endothelial growth factor were markedly decreased in CM-SYY compared to CM-nSYY.


SYY attenuates hepatoma cell invasiveness and metastasis capabilities through downregulating cytokines secreted by activated hepatic stellate cells.

Hepatocellular carcinoma; Herbal compound; Hepatic stellate cells; Metastasis