Research Papers:

Icaritin inhibits the expression of alpha-fetoprotein in hepatitis B virus-infected hepatoma cell lines through post-transcriptional regulation

Chao Zhang _, Hui Li, Wei Jiang, Xiaowei Zhang and Gang Li

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:83755-83766. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.13194

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Chao Zhang1,2, Hui Li2, Wei Jiang2, Xiaowei Zhang2, Gang Li2

1Department of Cell Biology and Municipal Laboratory of Liver Protection and Regulation of Regeneration, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China

2Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Peking University Health Science Center, Beijing, China

Correspondence to:

Chao Zhang, email: [email protected]

Gang Li, email: [email protected]

Keywords: alpha-fetoprotein, microRNA, hepatitis B virus, icaritin, post-transcriptional regulation

Received: January 29, 2016     Accepted: October 21, 2016     Published: November 08, 2016


Although it has showed that icaritin can apparently suppress growth of HCC by reducing the level of AFP, the intrinsic mechanism remains unclear. In this study, we explored the possible mechanism of miRNAs on post-transcriptional regulation of AFP gene, as well as the effects of HBV infection and icaritin in hepatoma cells. The results showed that miR-620, miR-1236 and miR-1270 could bind target sites in the range of 9–18 nt and 131–151 nt downstream of the stop codon in the AFP mRNA 3'-UTR to suppress the expression of AFP. Mutation of these target sites could reverse the effects of these miRNAs. Icaritin (10 μM) might reduce the stability and translational activity of AFP mRNA by increasing the expression levels of these mentioned miRNAs. HBV infection resulted in apparent decreases of these miRNAs and, consequently, increased AFP expression. The results indicated that miR-620, miR-1236 and miR-1270 are critical factors in the post-transcriptional regulation of AFP. Icaritin can counteract the effect of HBV. These findings will contribute to full understanding of the regulatory mechanism of AFP expression in hepatoma cells. And also it revealed a synergistic mechanism of HBV infection and elevation of AFP in the pathogenesis of HCC, as well as the potential clinical significance of icaritin on the therapy of HCC induced by HBV.

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