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Hepatology. 2003 Dec;38(6):1540-51.

Inhibition of CK2 activity by TGF-beta1 promotes IkappaB-alpha protein stabilization and apoptosis of immortalized hepatocytes.

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Department of Pharmacology, Center for Anticancer Drug Research, University of Tennessee Cancer Institute, College of Medicine, Memphis, TN 38163, USA.


Nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB) is an antiapoptotic factor involved in development, regeneration, and neoplastic progression of the liver. Previously, we have shown that stabilization of inhibitor kappaB (IkappaB)-alpha protein following treatment of hepatocytes with transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta1 promoted NF-kappaB repression, which then permitted induction of AP-1/SMAD-mediated liver cell death. Because basal IkappaB-alpha protein turnover is regulated by protein kinase CK2, here we have elucidated the regulation of CK2 kinase activity and its role in control of NF-kappaB levels following treatment with TGF-beta1. We show that both messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels of the CK2alpha catalytic subunit are down-regulated following TGF-beta1 stimulation in murine hepatocyte cells. The ensuing inhibition of CK2 kinase activity promotes stabilization of IkappaB protein, which is followed by the shutoff of constitutive NF-kappaB activity and induction of apoptosis. Ectopic expression of CK2alpha inhibits TGF-beta1-induced apoptosis through sustained activation of NF-kappaB. Conversely, expression of a kinase-dead mutant of CK2alpha potentiates TGF-beta1 cell killing. Importantly, we show that hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) derived from TGF-beta1 transgenic mice and human HCC cell lines display enhanced CK2 IkappaB kinase activity that contributes in part to an elevated NF-kappaB activity in vivo. In conclusion, inhibition of CK2 expression levels by TGF-beta1 is crucial for the induction of apoptosis of hepatocytes. Circumvention of this process by up-regulation of CK2 activity in transformed cells may contribute to the promotion of TGF-beta1-induced liver carcinogenesis.

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