Ring finger protein 152-dependent degradation of TSPAN12 suppresses hepatocellular carcinoma progression

Cancer Cell Int. 2021 Feb 18;21(1):122. doi: 10.1186/s12935-021-01806-1.


Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third cause of cancer death in the world, and few molecularly targeted anticancer therapies have been developed to treat it. The E3 ubiquitin ligase RNF152 has been reported to regulate the activity of the mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1), induce autophagy and apoptosis. However, the relationship between RNF152 and HCC is unclear.

Methods: Transcriptome RNA-sequencing data of HCC samples and normal tissues were used to detect the mRNA expression of RNF152. Luciferase reporter and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays were used to determine the transcriptional regulation of RNF152 in HCC by FoxO1. RNAi, cell proliferation, colony formation and transwell assays were used to determine the in vitro functions of RNF152. Mouse xenograft models were used to study the in vivo effects of RNF152. The immunoprecipitation assay was used to determine the interaction between RNF152 and TSPAN12. The in vivo ubiquitination assay was performed to determine the regulation of TSPAN12 by RNF152.

Results: We found that RNF152 is significantly down-regulated in clinic HCC samples, and its down-regulation is associated with pool overall survival (OS), progression-free survival (PFS) and disease-specific survival (DSS) in HCC patients. The transcription factor FoxO1 was significantly positively correlated RNF152 expression in HCC tissues. FoxO1 recognizes a classic insulin response element (IRE) on the RNF152 promoter to regulate its expression in HCC. RNF152 suppressed HCC cell proliferation, clonogenic survival, invasion in vitro, and tumorigenesis in vivo. Mechanistically, RNF152 interacted with TSPAN12 and targeted it for ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation, thereby inhibiting TSPAN12-dependent CXCL6 expression and HCC progression.

Conclusion: Collectively, our data revealed a tumor suppressor role of RNF152 and a connection between RNF152 and FoxO1 in HCC. Our results support an important role of the FoxO1-RNF152-TSPAN12 axis in the development of HCC. Therapeutic targeting this axis may be an effective means of treating HCC.

Keywords: E3 ligase; FoxO1; Hepatocellular carcinoma; RNF152; TSPAN12; Ubiquitination.