Abstract: Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a minority population of cancer cells with stemness and multiple differentiation potentials, leading to cancer progression and therapeutic resistance. However, the concrete mechanism of CSCs in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains obscure. We found that in advanced HCC tissues, collagen Ⅰ was upregulated, which is consistent with the expression of its receptor DDR1. Accordingly, high collagen Ⅰ levels accompanied by high DDR1 expression are associated with a poor prognosis in patients with HCC. Collagen Ⅰ-induced DDR1 activation enhanced HCC cell stemness in vitro and in vivo. Mechanistically, DDR1 interacts with CD44, which acts as a co-receptor that amplifies collagen Ⅰ-induced DDR1 signaling, and collagen Ⅰ-DDR1 signaling antagonized Hippo signaling by facilitating the recruitment of PP2AA to MST1, leading to exaggerated YAP activation. The combined inhibition of DDR1 and YAP synergistically abrogated HCC cell stemness in vitro and tumorigenesis in vivo. A radiomic model based on T2 weighted image can noninvasively predict collagen Ⅰ expression. These findings reveal the molecular basis of collagen Ⅰ-DDR1 signaling inhibiting Hippo signaling and highlight the role of CD44/DDR1/YAP axis in promoting cancer cell stemness, suggesting that DDR1 and YAP may serve as novel prognostic biomarkers and therapeutic targets in HCC.

Journal Link: 10.21203/rs.3.rs-1734316/v2 Journal Link: Publisher Website Journal Link: Download PDF Journal Link: Google Scholar