HuR suppresses fas expression and correlates with patient outcome in liver cancer

Haifeng Zhu, Zuzana Berkova, Rohit Mathur, Lalit Sehgal, Tamer Khashab, Rong Hua Tao, Xue Ao, Lei Feng, Anita L. Sabichi, Boris Blechacz, Asif Rashid, Felipe Samaniego

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC) show resistance to chemotherapy and have blunt response to apoptotic stimuli. HCC cell lines express low levels of the Fas death receptor and are resistant to FasL stimulation, whereas immortalized hepatocytes are sensitive. The variable Fas transcript levels and consistently low Fas protein in HCC cells suggest posttranscriptional regulation of Fas expression. The 30-untranslated region (UTR) of Fas mRNA was found to interact with the ribonucleoprotein Human Antigen R (HuR) to block mRNA translation. Silencing of HuR in HCC cells increased the levels of cell surface Fas and sensitized HCC cells to FasL. Two AU-rich domains within the 30-UTR of Fas mRNA were identified as putative HuR-binding sites and were found to mediate the translational regulation in reporter assay. Hydrodynamic transfection of HuR plasmid into mice induced downregulation of Fas expression in livers and established functional resistance to the killing effects of Fas agonist. Human HCC tumor tissues showed significantly higher overall and cytoplasmic HuR staining compared with normal liver tissues, and the high HuR staining score correlated with worse survival of patients with early-stage HCC. Combined, the protumorigenic ribonucleoprotein HuR blocks the translation of Fas mRNA and effectively prevents Fas-mediated apoptosis in HCC, suggesting that targeting HuR would sensitize cells to apoptotic stimuli and reverse tumorigenic properties. Implications: Demonstrating how death receptor signaling pathways are altered during progression of HCC will enable the development of better methods to restore this potent apoptosis mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)809-818
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Cancer Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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