Depletion of three combined THOC5 mRNA export protein target genes synergistically induces human hepatocellular carcinoma cell death

Oncogene. 2016 Jul 21;35(29):3872-9. doi: 10.1038/onc.2015.433. Epub 2015 Nov 9.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a frequent form of cancer with a poor prognosis and with limited possibilities of medical intervention. It has been shown that over 100 putative driver genes are associated with multiple recurrently altered pathways in HCC, suggesting that multiple pathways will need to be inhibited for any therapeutic method. mRNA processing is regulated by a complex RNA-protein network that is essential for the maintenance of homeostasis. THOC5, a member of mRNA export complex, has a role in less than 1% of mRNA processing, and is required for cell growth and differentiation, but not for cell survival in normal fibroblasts, hepatocytes and macrophages. In this report, we show that 50% depletion of THOC5 in human HCC cell lines Huh7 and HepG2 induced apoptosis. Transcriptome analysis using THOC5-depleted cells revealed that 396 genes, such as transmembrane BAX inhibitor motif containing 4 (TMBIM4), transmembrane emp24-like trafficking protein 10 (Tmed10) and D-tyrosyl-tRNA deacylase 2 (Dtd2) genes were downregulated in both cell lines. The depletion of one of these THOC5 target genes in Huh7 or HepG2 did not significantly induce cell death, suggesting that these may be fine tuners for HCC cell survival. However, the depletion of a combination of these genes synergistically increased the number of TUNEL (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling)-positive HCC. It must be noted that the depletion of these genes did not induce cell death in the hepatocyte cell line, THLE-2 cells. THOC5 expression was enhanced in 78% of cytological differentiation grading G2 and G3 tumor in primary HCC. Furthermore, the expression of a putative glycoprotein, Tmed10, is correlated to THOC5 expression level in primary HCCs, suggesting that this protein may be a novel biomarker for HCC. These data imply that the suppression of the multiple THOC5 target genes may represent a novel strategy for HCC therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cyclin D1 / genetics
  • Cyclin D1 / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Ki-67 Antigen / genetics
  • Ki-67 Antigen / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics*
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA Interference*
  • RNA Transport / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • THOC5 protein, human
  • TMBIM4 protein, human
  • Cyclin D1