Inhibition of apoptosis by oncogenic hepatitis B virus X protein: Implications for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma

Chuck C.K. Chao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Hepatitis B virus X protein (HBx) plays an important role in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In addition, hepatoma upregulated protein (HURP) is a cellular oncogene that is upregulated in a majority of HCC cases. We highlight here recent findings demonstrating a link between HBx, HURP and anti-apoptosis effects observed in cisplatin-treated HCC cells. We observed that Hep3B cells overexpressing HBx display increased HURP mRNA and protein levels, and show resistance to cisplatin-induced apoptosis. Knockdown of HURP in HBx-expressing cells reverses this effect, and sensitizes cells to cisplatin. The anti-apoptotic effect of HBx requires activation of the p38/MAPK pathway as well as expression of SATB1, survivin and HURP. Furthermore, silencing of HURP using short-hairpin RNA promotes accumulation of p53 and reduces cell proliferation in SK-Hep-1 cells (p53+/-), whereas these effects are not observed in p53-mutant Mahlavu cells. Similarly, HURP silencing does not affect the proliferation of H1299 lung carcinoma cells or Hep3B HCC cells which lack p53. Silencing of HURP sensitizes SK-Hep-1 cells to cisplatin. While HURP overexpression promotes p53 ubiquitination and degradation by the proteasome, HURP silencing reverses these effects. Inoculation of SK-Hep-1 cancer cells in which HURP has been silenced produces smaller tumors than control in nude mice. Besides, gankyrin, a positive regulator of the E3 ubiquitin ligase MDM2, is upregulated following HURP expression, and silencing of gankyrin reduces HURP-mediated downregulation of p53. In addition, we observed a positive correlation between HURP and gankyrin protein levels in HCC patients (r 2 = 0.778; n = 9). These findings suggest a role for the viral protein HBx and the host protein HURP in preventing p53-mediated apoptosis during cancer progression and establishment of chemoresistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1061-1066
Number of pages6
JournalWorld Journal of Hepatology
Issue number25
StatePublished - 01 09 2016

Bibliographical note

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© 2016 Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Gankyrin
  • Hepatitis B virus
  • Hepatitis B virus X protein
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Hepatoma upregulated protein
  • P53
  • SATB1


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