Hepatitis B virus X protein upregulates mTOR signaling through IKKβ to increase cell proliferation and VEGF production in hepatocellular carcinoma

Chia Jui Yen, Yih Jyh Lin, Chia Sheng Yen, Hung Wen Tsai, Ting Fen Tsai, Kwang Yu Chang, Wei Chien Huang, Pin Wen Lin, Chi Wu Chiang, Ting Tsung Chang

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Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a major cause of cancer-related death in Southeast Asia, is frequently associated with hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. HBV X protein (HBx), encoded by a viral non-structural gene, is a multifunctional regulator in HBV-associated tumor development. We investigated novel signaling pathways underlying HBx-induced liver tumorigenesis and found that the signaling pathway involving IκB kinase β (IKKβ), tuberous sclerosis complex 1 (TSC1), and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) downstream effector S6 kinase (S6K1), was upregulated when HBx was overexpressed in hepatoma cells. HBx-induced S6K1 activation was reversed by IKKβ inhibitor Bay 11-7082 or silencing IKKβ expression using siRNA. HBx upregulated cell proliferation and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) production, and these HBx-upregulated phenotypes were abolished by treatment with IKKβ inhibitor Bay 11-7082 or mTOR inhibitor rapamycin. The association of HBx-modulated IKKβ/mTOR/S6K1 signaling with liver tumorigenesis was verified in a HBx transgenic mouse model in which pIKKβ, pS6K1, and VEGF expression was found to be higher in cancerous than non-cancerous liver tissues. Furthermore, we also found that pIKKβ levels were strongly correlated with pTSC1 and pS6K1 levels in HBV-associated hepatoma tissue specimens taken from 95 patients, and that higher pIKKβ, pTSC1, and pS6K1 levels were correlated with a poor prognosis in these patients. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that HBx deregulates TSC1/mTOR signaling through IKKβ, which is crucially linked to HBV-associated HCC development.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere41931
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jul 27


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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