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Oncogene. 2001 Jun 21;20(28):3620-8.

Hepatitis B virus X mutants derived from human hepatocellular carcinoma retain the ability to abrogate p53-induced apoptosis.

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  • 1Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, MD 20892 USA.


Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and the integration of its X gene (HBx) are closely associated with the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The integrated HBx frequently is truncated or contains point mutations. Previous studies indicated that these HBx mutants have a diminished co-transactivational activity. We have compared the effects of wild-type (wt) HBx and its naturally occurring mutants derived from human HCCs on transcriptional co-transactivation, apoptosis and interactive effects with p53. We demonstrated that overexpression of mutant, but not wt HBx, is defective in transcriptional co-transactivation of the NF-kappaB-driven luciferase reporter. By using a microinjection technique, the HBx mutants were shown to have an attenuated pro-apoptotic activity. This deficiency may be attributed to multiple mutations in the co-transactivation domain of HBx, that leads to decreased stability of the translated product. However, wt or mutant HBx bind to p53 in vitro and retain their ability to block p53-mediated apoptosis in vivo, which has been implicated as its major tumor suppressor function. The abrogation of p53-mediated apoptosis by integrated HBx mutants may provide a selective clonal advantage for preneoplastic or neoplastic hepatocytes and contribute to hepatocellular carcinogenesis.

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