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Oncol Rep. 2016 Oct;36(4):2305-12. doi: 10.3892/or.2016.5026. Epub 2016 Aug 17.

HBx-induced miR-21 suppresses cell apoptosis in hepatocellular carcinoma by targeting interleukin-12.

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Department of Oncology, The First People's Hospital of Nantong, Nantong, Jiangsu 226001, P.R. China.
Research Center of Clinical Medicine, Affiliated Hospital of Nantong University, Nantong, Jiangsu 226001, P.R. China.


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) X protein (HBx) plays a key role in the initiation and progression of HBV infection‑induced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Oncogenic microRNA-21 (miR-21) can be modulated by HBx protein in HCC. However, critical regulator genes in the pathway of HBx-induced miR-21 in HCC remain unclear. This study aimed to investigate the role of HBx-induced miR-21 in the apoptosis of HCC cells. In the study, interleukin-12 (IL-12) was demonstrated as a direct target of miR-21 by dual‑luciferase report assay, and miR-21 was highly expressed in HCC cells (HepG2 and HepG2 2.2.15) compared to L02 cells, but IL-12 was weakly expressed as detected by real-time quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR). Furthermore, miR-21 mimics, inhibitor, HBx-targeted siRNA, and the HBx overexpression vector (pHBx) were used to observe the regulatory effects of HBx-induced miR-21 via IL-12, and cell apoptosis was assessed. The results showed that overexpression of HBx resulted in the inhibition of IL-12. A high level of miR-21 resulted in a significant increase in proliferation and a decrease in IL-12 expression. Inhibition of miR-21 resulted in a significant increase in apoptosis and increased IL-12 expression. The results suggest that HCC cell apoptosis was suppressed at least partially through HBx-induced miR-21 by targeting IL-12.

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