• aberrant RNA transcripts;
  • hepatocarcinogenesis;
  • p16INK4A;
  • promoter hypermethylation

Abstract: The inactivation of the p16INK4A (p16) gene by promoter hypermethylation has been reported in many human cancers. We previously reported that aberrant p16 RNA transcripts are expressed in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell lines having hypermethylated p16 promoters. In this study, we investigated the functional roles of aberrant p16 RNA transcripts in HCC cells to elucidate molecular events underlying hepatocarcinogenesis. The aberrant p16 RNA transcripts encoded key peptides (amino acids 84–103) involved in binding with cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) 4. GST-aberrant p16 fusion proteins were found to interact with endogenous CDK4 in vitro. Furthermore, overexpression of these aberrant p16 RNA transcripts resulted in decreased cell proliferation rate, enlargement of cell shape and reduced level of hyperphosphorylated forms of pRb. Overall, our results suggest that the aberrant p16 RNA transcripts have functions similar to those of wild type p16 in controlling cell cycle.