Hepatic Stress Response in HCV Infection Promotes STAT3-Mediated Inhibition of HNF4A-miR-122 Feedback Loop in Liver Fibrosis and Cancer Progression Article

Full Text via DOI: 10.3390/cancers11101407 PMID: 31547152 Web of Science: 000498826000004
Open Access

Cited authors

  • Aydin, Yucel; Kurt, Ramazan; Song, Kyoungsub; Lin, Dong; Osman, Hanadi; Youngquist, Brady; Scott, John W.; Shores, Nathan J.; Thevenot, Paul; Cohen, Ari; Dash, Srikanta


  • Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection compromises the natural defense mechanisms of the liver leading to a progressive end stage disease such as cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The hepatic stress response generated due to viral replication in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) undergoes a stepwise transition from adaptive to pro-survival signaling to improve host cell survival and liver disease progression. The minute details of hepatic pro-survival unfolded protein response (UPR) signaling that contribute to HCC development in cirrhosis are unknown. This study shows that the UPR sensor, the protein kinase RNA-like ER kinase (PERK), mediates the pro-survival signaling through nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2)-mediated signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) activation in a persistent HCV infection model of Huh-7.5 liver cells. The NRF2-mediated STAT3 activation in persistently infected HCV cell culture model resulted in the decreased expression of hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 alpha (HNF4A), a major liver-specific transcription factor. The stress-induced inhibition of HNF4A expression resulted in a significant reduction of liver-specific microRNA-122 (miR-122) transcription. It was found that the reversal of hepatic adaptive pro-survival signaling and restoration of miR-122 level was more efficient by interferon (IFN)-based antiviral treatment than direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). To test whether miR-122 levels could be utilized as a biomarker of hepatic adaptive stress response in HCV infection, serum miR-122 level was measured among healthy controls, and chronic HCV patients with or without cirrhosis. Our data show that serum miR-122 expression level remained undetectable in most of the patients with cirrhosis (stage IV fibrosis), suggesting that the pro-survival UPR signaling increases the risk of HCC through STAT3-mediated suppression of miR-122. In conclusion, our data indicate that hepatic pro-survival UPR signaling suppresses the liver-specific HNF4A and its downstream target miR-122 in cirrhosis. These results provide an explanation as to why cirrhosis is a risk factor for the development of HCC in chronic HCV infection.


Publication date

  • 2019

Published in


  • 11


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