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Hepatology. 2013 Jan;57(1):131-9. doi: 10.1002/hep.25979.

C-terminal truncated hepatitis B virus x protein is associated with metastasis and enhances invasiveness by C-Jun/matrix metalloproteinase protein 10 activation in hepatocellular carcinoma.

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State Key Laboratory for Liver Research, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.


Random integration of hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA into the host genome is frequent in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and this leads to truncation of the HBV DNA, particularly at the C-terminal end of the HBV X protein (HBx). In this study, we investigated the frequency of this natural C-terminal truncation of HBx in human HCCs and its functional significance. In 50 HBV-positive patients with HCC, full-length HBx was detected in all nontumorous livers. However, full-length HBx was found in only 27 (54%) of the HCC tumors, whereas natural carboxylic acid (COOH)-truncated HBx was found in the remaining 23 (46%) tumors. Upon clinicopathological analysis, the presence of natural COOH-truncated HBx significantly correlated with the presence of venous invasion, a hallmark of metastasis (P = 0.005). Inducible stable expression of the COOH-truncated HBx protein (with 24 amino acids truncated at the C-terminal end) enhanced the cell-invasive ability of HepG2 cells, as compared to full-length HBx, using the Matrigel cell-invasion assay. It also resulted in increased C-Jun transcriptional activity and enhanced transcription of matrix metalloproteinase 10 (MMP10), whereas activation of the MMP10 promoter by COOH-truncated HBx was abolished when the activator protein 1-binding sites on the MMP10 promoter were mutated. Furthermore, silencing of MMP10 by short interfering RNA in HBxΔC1-expressing HepG2 cells resulted in significant reduction of cell invasiveness.


Our data suggest that COOH truncation of HBx, particularly with 24 amino acids truncated at the C-terminal end, plays a role in enhancing cell invasiveness and metastasis in HCC by activating MMP10 through C-Jun.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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