The small heterodimer partner (SHP; NROB2), a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily, contributes to the biological regulation of several major functions of the liver. However, the role of SHP in cellular proliferation and tumorigenesis has not been investigated before. Here we report that SHP negatively regulates tumorigenesis both in vivo and in vitro. SHP-/- mice aged 12 to 15 months old developed spontaneous hepatocellular carcinoma, which was found to be strongly associated with enhanced hepatocyte proliferation and increased cyclin D1 expression. In contrast, overexpressing SHP in hepatocytes of SHP-transgenic mice reversed this effect. Embryonic fibroblasts lacking SHP showed enhanced proliferation and produced increased cyclin D1 messenger RNA and protein, and SHP was shown to be a direct negative regulator of cyclin D1 gene transcription. The immortal SHP-/- fibroblasts displayed characteristics of malignant transformed cells and formed tumors in nude mice.
Conclusion: These results provide first evidence that SHP plays tumor suppressor function by negatively regulating cellular growth.