RNA splicing: a dual-edged sword for hepatocellular carcinoma

Med Oncol. 2022 Aug 16;39(11):173. doi: 10.1007/s12032-022-01726-8.


RNA splicing is the fundamental process that brings diversity at the transcriptome and proteome levels. The spliceosome complex regulates minor and major processes of RNA splicing. Aberrant regulation is often associated with different diseases, including diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and cancer. In the majority of cancers, dysregulated alternative RNA splicing (ARS) events directly affect tumor progression, invasiveness, and often lead to poor survival of the patients. Alike the rest of the gastrointestinal malignancies, in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which alone contributes to ~ 75% of the liver cancers, a large number of ARS events have been observed, including intron retention, exon skipping, presence of alternative 3'-splice site (3'SS), and alternative 5'-splice site (5'SS). These events are reported in spliceosome and non-spliceosome complexes genes. Molecules such as MCL1, Bcl-X, and BCL2 in different isoforms can behave as anti-apoptotic or pro-apoptotic, making the spliceosome complex a dual-edged sword. The anti-apoptotic isoforms of such molecules bring in resistance to chemotherapy or cornerstone drugs. However, in contrast, multiple malignant tumors, including HCC that target the pro-apoptotic favoring isoforms/variants favor apoptotic induction and make chemotherapy effective. Herein, we discuss different splicing events, aberrations, and antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) in modulating RNA splicing in HCC tumorigenesis with a possible therapeutic outcome.

Keywords: ARS; Alternative RNA splicing; Cirrhosis; Exon skipping; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Hepatoma; Intron retention; NAFLD; NASH; RNA processing; RNA splicing; RNA-Seq; Spliceosome; Splicing factors; Transcript variants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Introns
  • Liver Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • RNA Splice Sites


  • Protein Isoforms
  • RNA Splice Sites