Reptin and Pontin are related ATPases associated with stoichiometric amounts in several complexes involved in chromatin remodeling, transcriptional regulation, and telomerase activity. We found that Reptin was up-regulated in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and that down-regulation of Reptin led to growth arrest. We show here that Pontin messenger RNA (mRNA) is also up-regulated in human HCC 3.9-fold as compared to nontumor liver (P = 0.0004). Pontin expression was a strong independent factor of poor prognosis in a multivariate analysis. As for Reptin, depletion of Pontin in HuH7 cells with small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) led to growth arrest. Remarkably, Pontin depletion led to down-regulation of Reptin as shown with western blot, and vice versa. Whereas siRNAs induced a decrease of their cognate mRNA targets, they did not affect the transcripts of the partner protein. Translation of Pontin or Reptin was not altered when the partner protein was silenced. However, pulse-chase experiments demonstrated that newly synthesized Pontin or Reptin stability was reduced in Reptin- or Pontin-depleted cells, respectively. This phenomenon was reversed upon inhibition of proteasome or ubiquitin-activating enzyme (E1). In addition, proteasome inhibition could partly restore Pontin steady-state levels in Reptin-depleted cells, as shown by western blot. This restoration was not observed when cells were also treated with cycloheximide, thus confirming that proteasomal degradation in this setting was restricted to newly synthesized Pontin.
Conclusion: Reptin and Pontin protein levels are strictly controlled by a posttranslational mechanism involving proteasomal degradation of newly synthesized proteins. These data demonstrate a tight regulatory and reciprocal interaction between Reptin and Pontin, which may in turn lead to the maintenance of their 1:1 stoichiometry.