The CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein β (C/EBPβ) is a transcription factor that regulates cellular proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis and tumorigenesis. Although the pro-oncogenic roles of C/EBPβ have been implicated in various human cancers, how it contributes to tumorigenesis or tumor progression has not been determined. Immunohistochemistry with human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tissues revealed that higher levels of C/EBPβ protein were expressed compared to normal lung tissues. Knockdown of C/EBPβ by siRNA reduced the proliferative capacity of NSCLC cells by delaying the G₂/M transition in the cell cycle. In C/EBPβ-knockdown cells, a prolonged increase in phosphorylation of cyclin dependent kinase 1 at tyrosine 15 (Y15-pCDK1) was displayed with simultaneously increased Wee1 and decreased Cdc25B expression. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analysis showed that C/EBPβ bound to distal promoter regions of WEE1 and repressed WEE1 transcription through its interaction with histone deacetylase 2. Treatment of C/EBPβ-knockdown cells with a Wee1 inhibitor induced a decrease in Y15-pCDK1 and recovered cells from G₂/M arrest. In the xenograft tumors, the depletion of C/EBPβ significantly reduced tumor growth. Taken together, these results indicate that Wee1 is a novel transcription target of C/EBPβ that is required for the G₂/M phase of cell cycle progression, ultimately regulating proliferation of NSCLC cells.
Keywords: C/EBPβ; G2/M arrest; Wee1; Y15-pCDK1; cell cycle; lung cancer.