Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is frequently associated with metabolism dysfunction. Increasing evidence has demonstrated the crucial role of lipid metabolism in HCC progression. The function of apolipoprotein F (ApoF), a lipid transfer inhibitor protein, in HCC is incompletely understood. We aimed to evaluate the functional role of ApoF in HCC in this study.


We used quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) to detect ApoF mRNA expression in HCC tissues and hepatoma cell lines (SMMC-7721, HepG2, and Huh7). Immunohistochemistry was performed to detect the expression of ApoF in HCC tissues. The associations between ApoF expression and clinicopathological features as well as HCC prognosis were analyzed. The effect of ApoF on cellular proliferation and growth of SMMC-7721 and Huh7 cells was examined in vitro and in vivo.


ApoF expression was significantly down-regulated at both mRNA and protein levels in HCC tissues as compared with adjacent tissues. In SMMC-7721 and Huh7 HCC cells, ApoF overexpression inhibited cell proliferation and migration. In a xenograft nude mouse model, ApoF overexpression effectively controlled HCC growth. Kaplan–Meier analysis results showed that the recurrence-free survival rate of HCC patients with low ApoF expression was significantly lower than that of other HCC patients. Low ApoF expression was associated with several clinicopathological features such as liver cirrhosis, Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer stage and tumor-node-metastasis stage.


ApoF expression was down-regulated in HCC, which was associated with low recurrence-free survival rate. ApoF may serve as a tumor suppressor in HCC and be a potential application for the treatment of this disease.

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