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RNA Biol. 2013 Feb;10(2):277-86. doi: 10.4161/rna.23315. Epub 2013 Jan 16.

Overexpression of RNA-binding protein CELF1 prevents apoptosis and destabilizes pro-apoptotic mRNAs in oral cancer cells.

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Department of Craniofacial Biology and Center for Oral Health Research, College of Dental Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA.


CELF1 RNA-binding protein, otherwise called CUGBP1, associates and coordinates the degradation of GU-rich element (GRE) containing mRNA's encoding factors important for cell growth, migration and apoptosis. Although many substrates of CELF1 have been identified, the biological significance of CELF1-mediated mRNA decay remains unclear. As the processes modulated by CELF1 are frequently disrupted in cancer, we investigated the expression and role of CELF1 in oral squamous cancer cells (OSCCs). We determined that CELF1 is reproducibly overexpressed in OSCC tissues and cell lines. Moreover, depletion of CELF1 reduced proliferation and increased apoptosis in OSCCs, but had negligible effect in non-transformed cells. We found that CELF1 associates directly with the 3'UTR of mRNAs encoding the pro-apoptotic factors BAD, BAX and JunD and mediates their rapid decay. Specifically, 3'UTR fragment analysis of JunD revealed that the GRE region is critical for binding with CELF1 and expression of JunD in oral cancer cells. In addition, silencing of CELF1 rendered BAD, BAX and JunD mRNAs stable and increased their protein expression in oral cancer cells. Taken together, these results support a critical role for CELF1 in modulating apoptosis and implicate this RNA-binding protein as a cancer marker and potential therapeutic target.


CELF1; caspase; mRNA stability; oral cancer; pro-apoptosis; translation

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