LIMK1 nuclear translocation promotes hepatocellular carcinoma progression by increasing p-ERK nuclear shuttling and by activating c-Myc signalling upon EGF stimulation

Oncogene. 2021 Apr;40(14):2581-2595. doi: 10.1038/s41388-021-01736-2. Epub 2021 Mar 8.


LIM kinase 1 (LIMK1) is a serine/threonine and tyrosine kinase that is predominantly located in the cytoplasm. In our study, nuclear translocation of LIMK1 in clinical hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) samples was demonstrated for the first time, especially in samples from those with intravascular tumour thrombus. LIMK1 was overexpressed in HCC tissues, and nuclear LIMK1 expression was associated with poor prognosis in HCC patients. Although the effects of cytoplasmic LIMK1 on cofilin phosphorylation and actin filament dynamics have been well studied, the function of nuclear LIMK1 is still unclear. Gain- and loss-of-function experiments were performed both in vitro and in vivo and demonstrated a correlation between nuclear LIMK1 and the enhanced aggressive phenotype of HCC. EGF could drive the nuclear translocation of LIMK1 by activating the interaction of p-ERK and LIMK1 and facilitating their roles in nuclear shuttling. Moreover, nuclear LIMK1 could directly bind to the promoter region of c-Myc and stimulate c-Myc transcription. Although the EGFR monoclonal antibody cetuximab has a poor therapeutic effect on advanced HCC patients, in vivo animal study showed that cetuximab achieved a significant inhibitory effect on the progression of nuclear LIMK1-overexpressing HCC cells. In addition, recent data have demonstrated the potential of cetuximab in combination therapy for HCC patients with LIMK1 nuclear translocation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Genes, myc / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Lim Kinases / metabolism*
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology


  • Epidermal Growth Factor
  • LIMK1 protein, human
  • Lim Kinases