Hepatitis C virus-induced up-regulation of microRNA-155 promotes hepatocarcinogenesis by activating Wnt signaling


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.

  • Funded by Development Program (863 Program, no. 2006AA02A238) from the Ministry of Science and Technology, Development Program from the military topic (06G67), and Shanghai Municipal Natural Science Foundation (11ZR1446500).


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection usually induces chronic hepatic inflammation, which favors the initiation and progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Moreover, microRNA-155 (miR-155) plays an important role in regulating both inflammation and tumorigenesis. However, little is known about whether and how miR-155 provides the link between inflammation and cancer. In this study we found that miR-155 levels were markedly increased in patients infected with HCV. MiR-155 transcription was regulated by nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), and p300 increased NF-κB-dependent miR-155 expression. The overexpression of miR-155 significantly inhibited hepatocyte apoptosis and promoted cell proliferation, whereas miR-155 inhibition induced G0/G1 arrest. Up-regulated miR-155 resulted in nuclear accumulation of β-catenin and a concomitant increase in cyclin D1, c-myc, and survivin. Gain-of-function and loss-of-function studies demonstrated that miR-155 promoted hepatocyte proliferation and tumorigenesis by increasing Wnt signaling in vitro and in vivo, and DKK1 (Wnt pathway inhibitor) overexpression inhibited the biological role of miR-155 in hepatocytes. Finally, adenomatous polyposis coli (APC), which negatively regulates Wnt signaling, was identified as the direct and functional target of miR-155. Conclusion: HCV-induced miR-155 expression promotes hepatocyte proliferation and tumorigenesis by activating Wnt signaling. The present study provides a better understanding of the relationship between inflammation and tumorigenesis, and thus may be helpful in the development of effective diagnosis and treatment strategies against HCV-HCC. (HEPATOLOGY 2012;56:1631–1640)