Hepatitis B virus X protein activates Notch signaling by its effects on Notch1 and Notch4 in human hepatocellular carcinoma

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Abstract

Deregulated expression of Notch receptors and abnormal activity of Notch signaling have been observed in a growing number of malignant tumors, however, the expression and activity of Notch in hepatitis B virus (HBV)-associated hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and their relationship with HBV X protein (HBx) are still not fully elucidated. To address this, we examined the overall expression of Notch receptors in HBV-associated HCC tissues, analyzed their relationship with HBx, and further investigated the role of Notch signaling in HBx stable transfected HepG2 cells (HepG2X). The results showed that Notch signaling could be activated by HBx in HepG2 cells. The expression of cytoplasmic Notch1 or nuclear Notch4 was correlated with the expression of HBx in HBV-associated HCC tissues. The expression of cytoplasmic Notch1 or nuclear Notch4 could also be upregulated by HBx in HepG2X cells. The upregulation of Notch1 by HBx was through p38 MAPK pathway. Moreover, HBx was found to directly interact with Notch1, whereas, not with Notch4 in HepG2X cells. Suppression of Notch signaling by secretase inhibitor (GSI) decreased cell growth, blocked cell cycle progression and induced cell apoptosis in HepG2X cells. The present study indicates that HBx activates Notch signaling by its effects on Notch1 and Notch4, and therefore, recruits Notch signaling as a downstream pathway contributing to its carcinogenic role in HBV-associated HCC.

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Gao, J., Xiong, Y., Wang, Y., Wang, Y., Zheng, G., & Xu, H. (2016). Hepatitis B virus X protein activates Notch signaling by its effects on Notch1 and Notch4 in human hepatocellular carcinoma. International Journal of Oncology, 48(1), 329–337. https://doi.org/10.3892/ijo.2015.3221

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