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J Hepatol. 2011 Mar;54(3):506-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2010.07.020. Epub 2010 Oct 29.

Pegylated interferon alpha targets Wnt signaling by inducing nuclear export of β-catenin.

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Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, United States.



Pegylated-Interferon-α2a (peg-IFN), a first line therapy for Hepatitis C virus (HCV) patients, also impacts the recurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The activation of the Wnt pathway due to β-catenin gene mutations contributes to the development of a significant subset of HCC. Herein, we explored the effect of peg-IFN on Wnt/β-catenin signaling in vitro and in vivo.


Multiple human hepatoma cell lines were treated with Peg-IFN to assess its effect on the Wnt pathway and the mechanisms involved. Transgenic (TG) mice expressing stable β-catenin mutant in the liver were exposed to diethylnitrosamine (DEN) and treated with peg-IFN.


In vitro, peg-IFN decreased the transcriptional activity of β-catenin/Tcf and did so independently of JAK/Stat signaling. Peg-IFN treatment led to increased mRNA and protein expression of RanBP3, a known β-catenin nuclear export factor, in all hepatoma cells. Co-precipitation studies showed an increased association between RanBP3 and β-catenin after peg-IFN treatment. The siRNA-mediated RanBP3 knockdown abrogated Peg-IFN-induced decrease in TOPFlash reporter activity. In vivo, Peg-IFN treatment led to increased nuclear RanBP3, decreased nuclear β-catenin and cyclin D1, and decreased cytoplasmic glutamine synthetase. Increased association of RanBP3 and β-catenin was also observed in vivo in response to Peg-IFN that led to decreased hepatocyte proliferation.


Peg-IFN inhibits β-catenin signaling through the up-regulation of RanBP3, which may be a contributory mechanism for the delayed HCC and improved survival in treated HCV patients. This observation might have chemo-preventive or chemo-therapeutic implications in tumor with aberrant Wnt pathway activation.

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