HBx Sensitizes Cells to Oxidative Stress-induced Apoptosis by Accelerating the Loss of Mcl-1 Protein via Caspase-3 Cascade

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Oxidative stress has been implicated in the pathogenesis of a wide spectrum of human diseases, including Hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related liver disease. Hepatitis B virus X protein (HBx) is a key regulator of HBV that exerts pleiotropic activity on cellular functions. Recent studies showed that HBx alters mitochondrial membrane potential, thereby sensitizing cells to pro-apoptotic signals. However, it remains largely unknown whether susceptibility of hepatocytes could be disturbed by HBx under oxidative stress conditions. The purpose of this study is to determine the apoptotic susceptibility of HBx-expressing hepatocytes upon exposure to pro-oxidant stimuli in vitro and in vivo and explore its underlying mechanism. RESULTS: Although expression of HBx itself did not activate apoptotic signaling, it significantly enhanced oxidative stress-induced cell death both in vitro and in vivo. Interestingly, this phenomenon was associated with a pronounced reduction of protein levels of Mcl-1, but not other anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 members. Importantly, enforced expression of Mcl-1 prevented HBx-triggered cell apoptosis; conversely, specific knockdown of Mcl-1 exacerbated HBx-induced apoptosis upon exposure to oxidative stress. Furthermore, inhibition of caspase-3 not only abrogated HBx-triggered apoptotic killing but also blocked HBx-induced Mcl-1 loss. Additionally, expression of HBx and Mcl-1 was found to be inversely correlated in HBV-related hepatocellular carcinogenesis (HCC) tissues. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicate that HBx exerts pro-apoptotic effect upon exposure to oxidative stress probably through accelerating the loss of Mcl-1 protein via caspase-3 cascade, which may shed a new light on the molecular mechanism of HBV-related hepatocarcinogenesis.

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Hu, L., Chen, L., Yang, G. Z., Li, L., Sun, H. Y., Chang, Y. X., … Wang, H. Y. (2011). HBx Sensitizes Cells to Oxidative Stress-induced Apoptosis by Accelerating the Loss of Mcl-1 Protein via Caspase-3 Cascade. Molecular Cancer, 10. https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-4598-10-43

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