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1.  Hepatocellular Tumors: Immunohistochemical Analyses for Classification and Prognostication 
Following the classification of hepatocellular nodules by the International Working Party in 1995 and further elaboration by the International Consensus Group for Hepatocellular Neoplasia in 2009, entities under the spectrum of hepatocellular nodules have been better characterized. Research work hence has been done to answer questions such as distinguishing high-grade dysplastic nodules from early hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), delineating the tumor cell origin of HCC, identifying its prognostic markers, and subtyping hepatocellular adenomas. As a result, a copious amount of data at immunohistochemical and molecular levels has emerged. A panel of immunohistochemical markers including glypican-3, heat shock protein 70 and glutamine synthetase has been found to be of use in the diagnosis of small, well differentiated hepatocellular tumors and particularly of HCC. The use of liver fatty acid binding protein (L-FABP), β-catenin, glutamine synthetase, serum amyloid protein and C-reactive protein is found to be helpful in the subtyping of hepatocellular adenomas. The role of tissue biomarkers for prognostication in HCC and the use of biomarkers in subclassifying HCC based on tumor cell origin are also discussed.
doi:10.1007/s11670-011-0245-6
PMCID: PMC3551308  PMID: 23359751
Hepatocellular tumors; Immunohistochemical; Classification
2.  Switching of Pyruvate Kinase Isoform L to M2 Promotes Metabolic Reprogramming in Hepatocarcinogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115036.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is an aggressive tumor, with a high mortality rate due to late symptom presentation and frequent tumor recurrences and metastasis. It is also a rapidly growing tumor supported by different metabolic mechanisms; nevertheless, the biological and molecular mechanisms involved in the metabolic reprogramming in HCC are unclear. In this study, we found that pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2) was frequently over-expressed in human HCCs and its over-expression was associated with aggressive clinicopathological features and poor prognosis of HCC patients. Furthermore, knockdown of PKM2 suppressed aerobic glycolysis and cell proliferation in HCC cell lines in vitro. Importantly, knockdown of PKM2 hampered HCC growth in both subcutaneous injection and orthotopic liver implantation models, and reduced lung metastasis in vivo. Of significance, PKM2 over-expression in human HCCs was associated with a down-regulation of a liver-specific microRNA, miR-122. We further showed that miR-122 interacted with the 3UTR of the PKM2 gene. Re-expression of miR-122 in HCC cell lines reduced PKM2 expression, decreased glucose uptake in vitro, and suppressed HCC tumor growth in vivo. Our clinical data and functional studies have revealed a novel biological mechanism involved in HCC metabolic reprogramming.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115036
PMCID: PMC4277479  PMID: 25541689
3.  Requirement of CRTC1 coactivator for hepatitis B virus transcription 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(20):12455-12468.
Transcription of hepatitis B virus (HBV) from the covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) template is essential for its replication. Suppressing the level and transcriptional activity of cccDNA might have anti-HBV effect. Although cellular transcription factors, such as CREB, which mediate HBV transcription, have been well described, transcriptional coactivators that facilitate this process are incompletely understood. In this study we showed that CREB-regulated transcriptional coactivator 1 (CRTC1) is required for HBV transcription and replication. The steady-state levels of CRTC1 protein were elevated in HBV-positive hepatoma cells and liver tissues. Ectopic expression of CRTC1 or its homolog CRTC2 or CRTC3 in hepatoma cells stimulated the activity of the preS2/S promoter of HBV, whereas overexpression of a dominant inactive form of CRTC1 inhibited HBV transcription. CRTC1 interacts with CREB and they are mutually required for the recruitment to the preS2/S promoter on cccDNA and for the activation of HBV transcription. Accumulation of pregenomic RNA (pgRNA) and cccDNA was observed when CRTC1 or its homologs were overexpressed, whereas the levels of pgRNA, cccDNA and secreted HBsAg were diminished when CRTC1 was compromised. In addition, HBV transactivator protein HBx stabilized CRTC1 and promoted its activity on HBV transcription. Our work reveals an essential role of CRTC1 coactivator in facilitating and supporting HBV transcription and replication.
doi:10.1093/nar/gku925
PMCID: PMC4227773  PMID: 25300488
4.  Polysaccharopeptide enhanced the anti-cancer effect of gamma-tocotrienol through activation of AMPK 
Background
Prostate cancer (PCa) frequently relapses after hormone ablation therapy. Unfortunately, once progressed to the castration resistant stage, the disease is regarded as incurable as prostate cancer cells are highly resistant to conventional chemotherapy.
Method
We recently reported that the two natural compounds polysaccharopeptide (PSP) and Gamma-tocotrienols (γ-T3) possessed potent anti-cancer activities through targeting of CSCs. In the present study, using both prostate cancer cell line and xenograft models, we seek to investigate the therapeutic potential of combining γ-T3 and PSP in the treatment of prostate cancer.
Result
We showed that in the presence of PSP, γ-T3 treatment induce a drastic activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). This was accompanied with inactivation of acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC), as evidenced by the increased phosphorylation levels at Ser 79. In addition, PSP treatment also sensitized cancer cells toward γ-T3-induced cytotoxicity. Furthermore, we demonstrated for the first time that combination of PSP and γ-T3 treaments significantly reduced the growth of prostate tumor in vivo.
Conclusion
Our results indicate that PSP and γ-T3 treaments may have synergistic anti-cancer effect in vitro and in vivo, which warrants further investigation as a potential combination therapy for the treatment of cancer.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-303
PMCID: PMC4246518  PMID: 25129068
Polysaccharopeptide; Tocotrienol; AMPK; Prostate cancer
5.  Correction: EZH2-Mediated H3K27me3 Is Involved in Epigenetic Repression of Deleted in Liver Cancer 1 in Human Cancers 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):10.1371/annotation/9085e9bd-25b1-4266-b6db-34e56d80ce3a.
doi:10.1371/annotation/9085e9bd-25b1-4266-b6db-34e56d80ce3a
PMCID: PMC3903464
6.  EZH2-Mediated H3K27me3 Is Involved in Epigenetic Repression of Deleted in Liver Cancer 1 in Human Cancers 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e68226.
Enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2), the histone methyltransferase of the Polycomb Repressive complex 2 catalyzing histone H3 lysine 27 tri-methylation (H3K27me3), is frequently up-regulated in human cancers. In this study, we identified the tumor suppressor Deleted in liver cancer 1 (DLC1) as a target of repression by EZH2-mediated H3K27me3. DLC1 is a GTPase-activating protein for Rho family proteins. Inactivation of DLC1 results in hyper-activated Rho/ROCK signaling and is implicated in actin cytoskeleton reorganization to promote cancer metastasis. By chromatin immunoprecipitation assay, we demonstrated that H3K27me3 was significantly enriched at the DLC1 promoter region of a DLC1-nonexpressing HCC cell line, MHCC97L. Depletion of EZH2 in MHCC97L by shRNA reduced H3K27me3 level at DLC1 promoter and induced DLC1 gene re-expression. Conversely, transient overexpression of GFP-EZH2 in DLC1-expressing Huh7 cells reduced DLC1 mRNA level with a concomitant enrichment of EZH2 on DLC1 promoter. An inverse relation between EZH2 and DLC1 expression was observed in the liver, lung, breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer tissues. Treating cancer cells with the EZH2 small molecular inhibitor, 3-Deazaneplanocin A (DZNep), restored DLC1 expression in different cancer cell lines, indicating that EZH2-mediated H3K27me3 epigenetic regulation of DLC1 was a common mechanism in human cancers. Importantly, we found that DZNep treatment inhibited HCC cell migration through disrupting actin cytoskeleton network, suggesting the therapeutic potential of DZNep in targeting cancer metastasis. Taken together, our study has shed mechanistic insight into EZH2-H3K27me3 epigenetic repression of DLC1 and advocated the significant pro-metastatic role of EZH2 via repressing tumor and metastasis suppressors.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068226
PMCID: PMC3694912  PMID: 23826380
7.  Hepatic Progenitor Cells: Their Role and Functional Significance in the New Classification of Primary Liver Cancers 
Liver Cancer  2013;2(2):84-92.
Hepatic progenitor cells (HPCs) are bipotential cells residing in normal liver. Their proliferation is observed in reactive conditions of the liver and in primary liver cancers. The observation that some hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) express a biliary-like immunophenotype has led to the identification of HPCs in HCC. Accumulating evidence suggests that HPCs play a role as the cell of origin in a variety of primary liver cancers. This has led to the development of revolutionary concepts in hepatocarcinogenesis. In this article, the role and significance of HPCs in HCC, including its classification, are summarized and discussed.
doi:10.1159/000343844
PMCID: PMC3740719  PMID: 24159600
Classification; Hepatic progenitor cells; Hepatocarcinogenesis; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Primary liver cancer
8.  AMPK promotes p53 acetylation via phosphorylation and inactivation of SIRT1 in liver cancer cells 
Cancer research  2012;72(17):4394-4404.
AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a biological sensor for cellular energy status, has been shown to act upstream and downstream of known tumour suppressors. However, whether AMPK itself plays a tumor suppressor role in cancer remains unclear. Here, we found that the α2 catalytic subunit isoform of AMPK is significantly down-regulated in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Clinicopathological analysis revealed that under-expression of AMPK-α2 was statistically associated with an undifferentiated cellular phenotype and poor patient prognosis. Loss of AMPK-α2 in HCC cells rendered them more tumorigenic than control cells both in vitro and in vivo. Mechanistically, ectopic expression of AMPK enhanced the acetylation and stability of p53 in HCC cells. The p53 deacetylase, SIRT1, was phosphorylated and inactivated by AMPK at Thr-344, promoting p53 acetylation and apoptosis of HCC cells. Taken together, our findings suggest that under-expression of AMPK is frequently observed in HCC, and that inactivation of AMPK promotes hepatocarcinogenesis by destabilising p53 in a SIRT1-dependent manner.
doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-0429
PMCID: PMC3433393  PMID: 22728651
AMPK; SIRT1; HCC; p53; phosphorylation
10.  Toll-Like Receptor 3 Expressing Tumor Parenchyma and Infiltrating Natural Killer Cells in Hepatocellular Carcinoma Patients 
Background
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a highly aggressive cancer that is linked to chronically dysregulated liver inflammation. However, appropriate immune responses can control HCC progression. Here we investigated the role and underlying mechanism of toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) in HCC.
Methods
HCC cell death, and natural killer (NK) cell activation and cytotoxicity were assessed in vitro after treatment with the TLR3 ligand poly(I:C). The effect of TLR3 on the tumor parenchyma and infiltrating immune cells was investigated in a spontaneous liver tumor mouse model and a transplanted tumor mouse model (n = 3–9 mice per group). Immunohistochemistry and quantitative polymerase chain reaction were used to analyze tumor samples from 172 HCC patients. Paired t-tests and analysis of variance tests were used to calculate P-values. The relationship between TLR3 expression and survival was determined by the Kaplan–Meier univariate survival analysis and a log-rank test. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Results
TLR3 activation increased cell death in the TLR3+ SNU182 HCC cell line (30.5% vs 8.5%, P = .03) and promoted NK-cell activation (32.6% vs 19.4%, P < .001) and cytotoxicity (relative fourfold increase, P = .03) in vitro. In vivo, poly(I:C) treatment increased intratumoral chemokine expression, NK-cell activation and tumor infiltration, and proliferation of tumor-infiltrating T and NK cells. Proliferation of tumor parenchyma cells was decreased. Also, expression of chemokines or treatment with poly(I:C) decreased tumor growth. TLR3 expression in patient samples correlated with NK-cell activation, NK- and T-cell tumor infiltration, and inversely correlated with tumor parenchyma cell viability. TLR3 expression was also associated with longer survival in HCC patients (hazard ratio of survival = 2.1, 95% confidence interval = 1.3 to 3.4, P = .002).
Conclusions
TLR3 is an important modulator of HCC progression and is a potential target for novel immunotherapy.
doi:10.1093/jnci/djs436
PMCID: PMC3814220  PMID: 23197495
12.  CDK5RAP3 Is a Novel Repressor of p14ARF in Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e42210.
CDK5 regulatory subunit associated protein 3 (CDK5RAP3) is a novel activator of PAK4 and processes important pro-metastatic function in hepatocarcinogenesis. However, it remains unclear if there are other mechanisms by which CDK5RAP3 promotes HCC metastasis. Here, we showed that in CDK5RAP3 stable knockdown SMMC-7721 HCC cells, p14ARF tumor suppressor was upregulated at protein and mRNA levels, and ectopic expression of CDK5RAP3 was found to repress the transcription of p14ARF. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation assay, we demonstrated that CDK5RAP3 bound to p14ARF promoter in vivo. Furthermore, knockdown of p14ARF in CDK5RAP3 stable knockdown HCC cells reversed the suppression of HCC cell invasiveness mediated by knockdown of CDK5RAP3. Taken together, our findings provide the new evidence that overexpression of CDK5RAP3 promotes HCC metastasis via downregulation of p14ARF.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042210
PMCID: PMC3409131  PMID: 22860085
13.  Upregulation of the Wnt Co-Receptor LRP6 Promotes Hepatocarcinogenesis and Enhances Cell Invasion 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36565.
Background
Activation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway plays a crucial role in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor-related protein-6 (LRP6) is one of the co-receptors of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway and forms a signaling complex with Wnt ligand and Frizzled receptor to activate downstream signaling. However, the role of LRP6 in hepatocarcinogenesis is unclear. In this study, we examined its expression and roles in human HCC.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using real-time quantitative RT-PCR, we found that LRP6 was frequently (45%) overexpressed in human HCCs (P = 0.003). In vitro studies showed that ectopic expression of LRP6 increased the protein level of β-catenin. Moreover, overexpression of the full-length and constitutively active LRP6, respectively, activated the WNT/β-catenin signaling pathway, as shown by the TCF/β-catenin reporter assay. With regard to the effects of LRP6 overexpression in HCC cells, stable overexpression of the constitutively active LRP6 in BEL-7402 HCC cells enhanced cell proliferation, cell migration, and invasion in vitro as well as tumorigenicity in nude mice.
Conclusions/Significance
Our findings indicate that overexpression of LRP6 contributes to the hyperactivation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway in human HCCs and suggest it may play a role in hepatocarcinogenesis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036565
PMCID: PMC3343020  PMID: 22570728
14.  Genome-Wide Association Study of Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Southern Chinese Patients with Chronic Hepatitis B Virus Infection 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28798.
One of the most relevant risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development is chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, but only a fraction of chronic HBV carriers develop HCC, indicating that complex interactions among viral, environmental and genetic factors lead to HCC in HBV-infected patients. So far, host genetic factors have incompletely been characterized. Therefore, we performed a genome-wide association (GWA) study in a Southern Chinese cohort consisting of 95 HBV-infected HCC patients (cases) and 97 HBV-infected patients without HCC (controls) using the Illumina Human610-Quad BeadChips. The top single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were then validated in an independent cohort of 500 cases and 728 controls. 4 SNPs (rs12682266, rs7821974, rs2275959, rs1573266) at chromosome 8p12 showed consistent association in both the GWA and replication phases (ORcombined = 1.31–1.39; pcombined = 2.71×10−5–5.19×10−4; PARcombined = 26–31%). We found a 2.3-kb expressed sequence tag (EST) in the region using in-silico data mining and verified the existence of the full-length EST experimentally. The expression level of the EST was significantly reduced in human HCC tumors in comparison to the corresponding non-tumorous liver tissues (P<0.001). Results from sequence analysis and in-vitro protein translation study suggest that the transcript might function as a long non-coding RNA. In summary, our study suggests that variations at chromosome 8p12 may promote HCC in patients with HBV. Further functional studies of this region may help understand HBV-associated hepatocarcinogenesis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028798
PMCID: PMC3234276  PMID: 22174901
15.  Nuclear-Targeted Deleted in Liver Cancer 1 (DLC1) Is Less Efficient in Exerting Its Tumor Suppressive Activity Both In Vitro and In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e25547.
Background
Deleted in liver cancer 1 (DLC1) serves as an important RhoGTPase activating protein (RhoGAP) protein that terminates active RhoA signaling in human cancers. Increasing evidence has demonstrated that the tumor suppressive activity of DLC1 depends not only on RhoGAP activity, but also relies on proper focal adhesion localization through its interaction with tensin family proteins. Recently, there are reports showing that DLC1 can also be found in the nucleus; however, the existence and the relative tumor suppressive activity of nuclear DLC1 have never been clearly addressed.
Methodology and Principal Findings
We herein provide new evidence that DLC1 protein, which predominantly associated with focal adhesions and localized in cytosol, dynamically shuttled between cytoplasm and nucleus. Treatment of cells with nuclear export blocker, Leptomycin B (LMB), retained DLC1 in the nucleus. To understand the nuclear entry of DLC1, we identified amino acids 600–700 of DLC1 as a novel region that is important for its nuclear localization. The tumor suppressive activity of nuclear DLC1 was directly assessed by employing a nuclear localization signal (NLS) fusion variant of DLC1 (NLS-DLC1) with preferential nuclear localization. In SMMC-7721 HCC cells, expression of NLS-DLC1 failed to suppress colony formation and actin stress fiber formation in vitro. The abrogated tumor suppressive activity of nuclear DLC1 was demonstrated for the first time in vivo by subcutaneously injecting p53−/− RasV12 hepatoblasts with stable NLS-DLC1 expression in nude mice. The injected hepatoblasts with NLS-DLC1 expression effectively formed tumors when compared with the non-nuclear targeted DLC1.
Conclusions/Significance
Our study identified a novel region responsible for the nuclear entry of DLC1 and demonstrated the functional difference of DLC1 in different cellular compartments both in vitro and in vivo.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025547
PMCID: PMC3180446  PMID: 21966542
16.  Correction: Chemopreventive Effect of PSP Through Targeting of Prostate Cancer Stem Cell-Like Population 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):10.1371/annotation/0f6309be-936c-4974-97bf-ed3a98289cd9.
doi:10.1371/annotation/0f6309be-936c-4974-97bf-ed3a98289cd9
PMCID: PMC3107256
17.  Correction: Chemopreventive Effect of PSP Through Targeting of Prostate Cancer Stem Cell-Like Population 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):10.1371/annotation/b0312c4c-e06a-47ef-9e9c-b044dbfa3d6a.
doi:10.1371/annotation/b0312c4c-e06a-47ef-9e9c-b044dbfa3d6a
PMCID: PMC3107257
18.  Chemopreventive Effect of PSP Through Targeting of Prostate Cancer Stem Cell-Like Population 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19804.
Recent evidence suggested that prostate cancer stem/progenitor cells (CSC) are responsible for cancer initiation as well as disease progression. Unfortunately, conventional therapies are only effective in targeting the more differentiated cancer cells and spare the CSCs. Here, we report that PSP, an active component extracted from the mushroom Turkey tail (also known as Coriolus versicolor), is effective in targeting prostate CSCs. We found that treatment of the prostate cancer cell line PC-3 with PSP led to the down-regulation of CSC markers (CD133 and CD44) in a time and dose-dependent manner. Meanwhile, PSP treatment not only suppressed the ability of PC-3 cells to form prostaspheres under non-adherent culture conditions, but also inhibited their tumorigenicity in vivo, further proving that PSP can suppress prostate CSC properties. To investigate if the anti-CSC effect of PSP may lead to prostate cancer chemoprevention, transgenic mice (TgMAP) that spontaneously develop prostate tumors were orally fed with PSP for 20 weeks. Whereas 100% of the mice that fed with water only developed prostate tumors at the end of experiment, no tumors could be found in any of the mice fed with PSP, suggesting that PSP treatment can completely inhibit prostate tumor formation. Our results not only demonstrated the intriguing anti-CSC effect of PSP, but also revealed, for the first time, the surprising chemopreventive property of oral PSP consumption against prostate cancer.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019804
PMCID: PMC3095629  PMID: 21603625
19.  Integrin-Linked Kinase Overexpression and Its Oncogenic Role in Promoting Tumorigenicity of Hepatocellular Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e16984.
Background
Integrin-linked kinase (ILK) was first discovered as an integrin β1-subunit binding protein. It localizes at the focal adhesions and is involved in cytoskeleton remodeling. ILK overexpression and its dysregulated signaling cascades have been reported in many human cancers. Aberrant expression of ILK influenced a wide range of signaling pathways and cellular functions. Although ILK has been well characterized in many malignancies, its role in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is still largely unknown.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Quantitative PCR analysis was used to examine ILK mRNA expression in HCC clinical samples. It was shown that ILK was overexpressed in 36.9% (21/57) of HCC tissues when compared to the corresponding non-tumorous livers. The overall ILK expression level was significantly higher in tumorous tissues (P = 0.004), with a significant stepwise increase in expression level along tumor progression from tumor stage I to IV (P = 0.045). ILK knockdown stable clones were established in two HCC cell lines, BEL7402 and HLE, and were subjected to different functional assays. Knockdown of ILK significantly suppressed HCC cell growth, motility and invasion in vitro and inhibited tumorigenicity in vivo. Western blot analysis revealed a reduced phosphorylated-Akt (pAkt) at Serine-473 expression in ILK knockdown stable clones when compared to control clones.
Conclusion/Significance
This study provides evidence about the clinical relevance of ILK in hepatocarcinogenesis. ILK was found to be progressively elevated along HCC progression. Here our findings also provide the first validation about the oncogenic capacity of ILK in vivo by suppressing its expression in HCC cells. The oncogenic role of ILK is implicated to be mediated by Akt pathway.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016984
PMCID: PMC3036736  PMID: 21347395
20.  Transcriptional Repressive H3K9 and H3K27 Methylations Contribute to DNMT1-Mediated DNA Methylation Recovery 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e16702.
DNA methylation and histone modifications are two major epigenetic events regulating gene expression and chromatin structure, and their alterations are linked to human carcinogenesis. DNA methylation plays an important role in tumor suppressor gene inactivation, and can be revised by DNA methylation inhibitors. The reversible nature of DNA methylation forms the basis of epigenetic cancer therapy. However, it has been reported that DNA re-methylation and gene re-silencing could occur after removal of demethylation treatment and this may significantly hamper the therapeutic value of DNA methylation inhibitors. In this study we have provided detailed evidence demonstrating that mammalian cells possess a bona fide DNA methylation recovery system. We have also shown that DNA methylation recovery was mediated by the major human DNA methyltransferase, DNMT1. In addition, we found that H3K9-tri-methylation and H3K27-tri-methylation were closely associated with this DNA methylation recovery. These persistent transcriptional repressive histone modifications may have a crucial role in regulating DNMT1-mediated DNA methylation recovery. Our findings may have important implications towards a better understanding of epigenetic regulation and future development of epigenetic therapeutic intervention.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016702
PMCID: PMC3035659  PMID: 21347439
21.  Genome-Wide Association Study in Asian Populations Identifies Variants in ETS1 and WDFY4 Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(2):e1000841.
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a complex and potentially fatal autoimmune disease, characterized by autoantibody production and multi-organ damage. By a genome-wide association study (320 patients and 1,500 controls) and subsequent replication altogether involving a total of 3,300 Asian SLE patients from Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Thailand, as well as 4,200 ethnically and geographically matched controls, genetic variants in ETS1 and WDFY4 were found to be associated with SLE (ETS1: rs1128334, P = 2.33×10−11, OR = 1.29; WDFY4: rs7097397, P = 8.15×10−12, OR = 1.30). ETS1 encodes for a transcription factor known to be involved in a wide range of immune functions, including Th17 cell development and terminal differentiation of B lymphocytes. SNP rs1128334 is located in the 3′-UTR of ETS1, and allelic expression analysis from peripheral blood mononuclear cells showed significantly lower expression level from the risk allele. WDFY4 is a conserved protein with unknown function, but is predominantly expressed in primary and secondary immune tissues, and rs7097397 in WDFY4 changes an arginine residue to glutamine (R1816Q) in this protein. Our study also confirmed association of the HLA locus, STAT4, TNFSF4, BLK, BANK1, IRF5, and TNFAIP3 with SLE in Asians. These new genetic findings may help us to gain a better understanding of the disease and the functions of the genes involved.
Author Summary
In this study, we first conducted a genome-wide association study in a Hong Kong Chinese population, followed by replication in three other cohorts from Mainland China and a cohort from Thailand, which totaled 3,300 Asian patients and 4,200 ethnically and geographically matched controls. We identified novel variants in ETS1 and WDFY4 associated with SLE with genome-wide significance and confirmed the association of HLA locus, STAT4, BLK, IRF5, BANK1, TNFSF, and IRF5 with the disease. ETS1 encodes a critical transcription factor involved in Th17 and B cell development. Allelic expression study showed a significantly lower expression of ETS1 from the risk allele, which provided functional support to the genetic findings. WDFY4 is a huge protein with unknown function but is predominantly expressed in primary and secondary immune tissues, and a nonsynonymous SNP in this gene was found to be highly associated with SLE susceptibility. Our findings shed new light on the function of these genes as well as the mechanism of this devastating disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000841
PMCID: PMC2820522  PMID: 20169177
22.  Deleted in Liver Cancer 2 (DLC2) Was Dispensable for Development and Its Deficiency Did Not Aggravate Hepatocarcinogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6566.
DLC2 (deleted in liver cancer 2), a Rho GTPase-activating protein, was previously shown to be underexpressed in human hepatocellular carcinoma and has tumor suppressor functions in cell culture models. We generated DLC2-deficient mice to investigate the tumor suppressor role of DLC2 in hepatocarcinogenesis and the function of DLC2 in vivo. In this study, we found that, unlike homologous DLC1, which is essential for embryonic development, DLC2 was dispensable for embryonic development and DLC2-deficient mice could survive to adulthood. We also did not observe a higher incidence of liver tumor formation or diethylnitrosamine (DEN)-induced hepatocarcinogenesis in DLC2-deficient mice. However, we observed that DLC2-deficient mice were smaller and had less adipose tissue than the wild type mice. These phenotypes were not due to reduction of cell size or defect in adipogenesis, as observed in the 190B RhoGAP-deficient mouse model. Together, these results suggest that deficiency in DLC2 alone does not enhance hepatocarcinogenesis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006566
PMCID: PMC2718616  PMID: 19668331
23.  Deleted in Liver Cancer 1 (DLC1) Utilizes a Novel Binding Site for Tensin2 PTB Domain Interaction and Is Required for Tumor-Suppressive Function 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(5):e5572.
Background
Deleted in liver cancer 1 (DLC1) is a Rho GTPase-activating protein (RhoGAP) frequently deleted and underexpressed in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) as well as in other cancers. Recent independent studies have shown interaction of DLC1 with members of the tensin focal adhesion protein family in a Src Homology 2 (SH2) domain-dependent mechanism. DLC1 and tensins interact and co-localize to punctate structures at focal adhesions. However, the mechanisms underlying the interaction between DLC1 and various tensins remain controversial.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We used a co-immunoprecipitation assay to identify a previously undocumented binding site at 375–385 of DLC1 that predominantly interacted with the phosphotyrosine binding (PTB) domain of tensin2. DLC1-tensin2 interaction is completely abolished in a DLC1 mutant lacking this novel PTB binding site (DLC1ΔPTB). However, as demonstrated by immunofluorescence and co-immunoprecipitation, neither the focal adhesion localization nor the interaction with tensin1 and C-terminal tensin-like (cten) were affected. Interestingly, the functional significance of this novel site was exhibited by the partial reduction of the RhoGAP activity, which, in turn, attenuated the growth-suppressive activity of DLC1 upon its removal from DLC1.
Conclusions/Significance
This study has provided new evidence that DLC1 also interacts with tensin2 in a PTB domain-dependent manner. In addition to properly localizing focal adhesions and preserving RhoGAP activity, DLC1 interaction with tensin2 through this novel focal adhesion binding site contributes to the growth-suppressive activity of DLC1.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005572
PMCID: PMC2680019  PMID: 19440389
24.  Deleted in Liver Cancer 1 (DLC1) Negatively Regulates Rho/ROCK/MLC Pathway in Hepatocellular Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(7):e2779.
Aims
Deleted in liver cancer 1 (DLC1), a member of RhoGTPase activating protein (GAP) family, is known to have suppressive activities in tumorigenicity and cancer metastasis. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms of how DLC1 suppresses cell motility have not been fully elucidated. Rho-kinase (ROCK) is an immediate down-stream effector of RhoA in mediating cellular cytoskeletal events and cell motility. In the present study, we aimed to investigate the effects of DLC1 on Rho/ROCK signaling pathway in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Methodology/Principal Findings
We demonstrated that DLC1 negatively regulated ROCK-dependent actomyosin contractility. From immumofluorescence study, we found that ectopic expression of DLC1 abrogated Rho/ROCK-mediated cytoskeletal reorganization including formation of stress fibers and focal adhesions. It also downregulated cortical phosphorylation of myosin light chain 2 (MLC2). These inhibitory events by DLC1 were RhoGAP-dependent, as RhoGAP-deficient mutant of DLC1 (DLC1 K714E) abolished these inhibitory events. In addition, from western study, DLC1 inhibited ROCK-related myosin light chain phosphatase targeting unit 1 (MYPT1) phosphorylation at Threonine 853. By examining cell morphology under microscope, we found that ectopic expression of dominant-active ROCK released cells from DLC1-induced cytoskeletal collapse and cell shrinkage.
Conclusion
Our data suggest that DLC1 negatively regulates Rho/ROCK/MLC2. This implicates a ROCK-mediated pathway of DLC1 in suppressing metastasis of HCC cells and enriches our understanding in the molecular mechanisms involved in the progression of hepatocellular carcinoma.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002779
PMCID: PMC2464714  PMID: 18648664
25.  The liver-enriched transcription factor CREB-H is a growth suppressor protein underexpressed in hepatocellular carcinoma 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(6):1859-1873.
We have previously characterized transcription factor LZIP to be a growth suppressor targeted by hepatitis C virus oncoprotein. In search of proteins closely related to LZIP, we have identified a liver-enriched transcription factor CREB-H. LZIP and CREB-H represent a new subfamily of bZIP factors. CREB-H activates transcription by binding to cAMP responsive element, box B, and ATF6-binding element. Interestingly, CREB-H has a putative transmembrane (TM) domain and it localizes ambiently to the endoplasmic reticulum. Proteolytic cleavage that removes the TM domain leads to nuclear translocation and activation of CREB-H. CREB-H activates the promoter of hepatic gluconeogenic enzyme phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase. This activation can be further stimulated by cAMP and protein kinase A. CREB-H transcript is exclusively abundant in adult liver. In contrast, the expression of CREB-H mRNA is aberrantly reduced in hepatoma tissues and cells. The enforced expression of CREB-H suppresses the proliferation of cultured hepatoma cells. Taken together, our findings suggest that the liver-enriched bZIP transcription factor CREB-H is a growth suppressor that plays a role in hepatic physiology and pathology.
doi:10.1093/nar/gki332
PMCID: PMC1072803  PMID: 15800215

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