Nucleostemin Modulates Outcomes of Hepatocellular Carcinoma via a Tumor Adaptive Mechanism to Genomic Stress. Academic Article uri icon


  • Hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC) are adapted to survive extreme genomic stress conditions imposed by hyperactive DNA replication and genotoxic drug treatment. The underlying mechanisms remain unclear, but may involve intensified DNA damage response/repair programs. Here, we investigate a new role of nucleostemin (NS) in allowing HCC to survive its own malignancy, as NS was previously shown to promote liver regeneration via a damage repair mechanism. We first established that a higher NS transcript level correlates with high-HCC grades and poor prognostic signatures, and is an independent predictor of shorter overall and progression-free survival specifically for HCC and kidney cancer but not for others. Immunostaining confirmed that NS is most abundantly expressed in high-grade and metastatic HCCs. Genome-wide analyses revealed that NS is coenriched with MYC target and homologous recombination (HR) repair genes in human HCC samples and functionally intersects with those involved in replication stress response and HR repair in yeasts. In support, NS-high HCCs are more reliant on the replicative/oxidative stress response pathways, whereas NS-low HCCs depend more on the mTOR pathway. Perturbation studies showed NS function in protecting human HCC cells from replication- and drug-induced DNA damage. Notably, NS depletion in HCC cells increases the amounts of physical DNA damage and cytosolic double-stranded DNA, leading to a reactive increase of cytokines and PD-L1. This study shows that NS provides an essential mechanism for HCC to adapt to high genomic stress for oncogenic maintenance and propagation. NS deficiency sensitizes HCC cells to chemotherapy but also triggers tumor immune responses. IMPLICATIONS: HCC employs a novel, nucleostemin (NS)-mediated-mediated adaptive mechanism to survive high genomic stress conditions, a deficiency of which sensitizes HCC cells to chemotherapy but also triggers tumor immune responses.

published proceedings

  • Mol Cancer Res

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Wang, J., McGrail, D. J., Bhupal, P. K., Zhang, W., Lin, K., Ku, Y., ... Tsai, R.

citation count

  • 7

complete list of authors

  • Wang, Junying||McGrail, Daniel J||Bhupal, Parnit K||Zhang, Wen||Lin, Kuan-Yu||Ku, Yi-Hsuan||Lin, Tao||Wu, Hongfu||Tsai, Kyle C||Li, Kaiyi||Peng, Cheng-Yuan||Finegold, Milton J||Lin, Shiaw-Yih||Tsai, Robert YL

publication date

  • May 2020