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J Clin Invest. 2013 Feb;123(2):630-45. doi: 10.1172/JCI64265. Epub 2013 Jan 16.

Hepatitis B virus X protein represses miRNA-148a to enhance tumorigenesis.

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  • 1Department of Medical Molecular Biology, Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, Beijing, People’s Republic of China.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have been shown to be dysregulated in virus-related cancers; however, miRNA regulation of virus-related cancer development and progression remains poorly understood. Here, we report that miR-148a is repressed by hepatitis B virus (HBV) X protein (HBx) to promote cancer growth and metastasis in a mouse model of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Hematopoietic pre-B cell leukemia transcription factor-interacting protein (HPIP) is an important regulator of cancer cell growth. We used miRNA target prediction programs to identify miR-148a as a regulator of HPIP. Expression of miR-148a in hepatoma cells reduced HPIP expression, leading to repression of AKT and ERK and subsequent inhibition of mTOR through the AKT/ERK/FOXO4/ATF5 pathway. HBx has been shown to play a critical role in the molecular pathogenesis of HBV-related HCC. We found that HBx suppressed p53-mediated activation of miR-148a. Moreover, expression of miR-148a was downregulated in patients with HBV-related liver cancer and negatively correlated with HPIP, which was upregulated in patients with liver cancer. In cultured cells and a mouse xenograft model, miR-148a reduced the growth, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, invasion, and metastasis of HBx-expressing hepatocarcinoma cells through inhibition of HPIP-mediated mTOR signaling. Thus, miR-148a activation or HPIP inhibition may be a useful strategy for cancer treatment.

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