MORC2, a novel oncogene, is upregulated in liver cancer and contributes to proliferation, metastasis and chemoresistance

Int J Oncol. 2018 Jul;53(1):59-72. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2018.4333. Epub 2018 Mar 27.


Microrchidia 2 (MORC2) is important in DNA damage repair and lipogenesis, however, the clinical and functional role of MORC2 in liver cancer remains to be fully elucidated. The aim the present study was to clarify the role of MORC2 in liver cancer. Expression profile analysis, immunohistochemical staining, reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis and western blot analysis were performed to evaluate the levels of MORC2 in liver cancer patient specimens and cell lines; subsequently the expression of MORC2 was suppressed or increased in liver cancer cells and the effects of MORC2 on the cancerous transformation of liver cancer cells were examined in vitro and in vivo. MORC2 was upregulated in liver cancer tissues, and the upregulation was associated with certain clinicopathologic features of patients with liver cancer. MORC2 knockdown caused marked inhibition of liver cancer cell proliferation and clonogenicity, whereas the overexpression of MORC2 substantially promoted liver cancer cell proliferation. In addition, the knockdown of MORC2 inhibited the migratory and invasive ability of liver cancer cells, whereas increased migration and invasion rates were observed in cells with ectopic expression of MORC2. In a model of nude mice, the overexpression of MORC2 promoted tumorigenicity and markedly enhanced pulmonary metastasis of liver cancer. Furthermore, MORC2 regulated apoptosis and its expression level had an effect on the sensitivity of liver cancer cells to doxorubicin, 5-fluorouracil and cisplatin. Mechanically, MORC2 modulated the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway, possibly in a p53-dependent manner, and its dysregulation also resulted in the abnormal activation of the Hippo pathway. For the first time, to the best of our knowledge, the present study confirmed that MORC2 was a novel oncogene in liver cancer. These results provide useful insight into the mechanism underlying the tumorigenesis and progression of liver cancer, and offers clues into potential novel liver cancer therapies.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Carcinogenesis / genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / genetics*
  • DNA Repair / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Oncogenes / genetics
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • MORC2 protein, human
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Hippo protein, human
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases