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Keywords:

  • hepatocellular carcinoma;
  • ARNT;
  • cell cycle;
  • proliferation;
  • prognosis

Abstract

bHLH/PAS proteins play important roles in tumor progression. Lost or reduced expression of single-minded homolog 2 (SIM) as well as aryl hydrocarbon receptor repressor (AHRR) has been observed in cancerous human tissues. Here, we investigated the role of aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT), another bHLH/PAS protein, in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Using tissue microarray and immunohistochemistry, we found that intratumoral ARNT was inversely correlated with time to recurrence and overall survival of HCC patients after resection. Knockdown of ARNT in HepG2, HCCLM3 and HCCLM6 cells significantly shortened cell doubling time, increased S-phase cell populations and accelerated in vivo HCCLM6 growth and metastasis. After ARNT expression was rescued, prolonged cell doubling time and decreased S-phase cell populations were observed in HepG2, HCCLM3 and HCCLM6 cells. And, HCCLM6 growth and metastasis in vivo were remarkably inhibited. Screening by quantitative reverse-transcription PCR and PCR arrays revealed that cyclin E1, CDK2, Fos and Jun were negatively regulated by ARNT, whereas CDKN1C, CNKN2A, CDKN2B, MAPK11 and MAPK14 were positively regulated in HCC. According to the results of immunoprecipitation assay, both ARNT/ARNT and ARNT/AHRR complexes were clearly formed in HCCLM6 xenograft with increased ARNT expression. In summary, ARNT is an important regulator of HCC growth and metastasis and could be a promising prognostic candidate in HCC patients.