Despite its implication in the progression of hepatitis B virus (HBV)-associated liver disease, the pro-apoptotic function of HBx protein remains poorly understood. We show that the expression of HBx leads to hyperactivation of caspase-8 and caspase-3 upon treatment with tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) or anti-Fas antibody, and this activation is correlated with the sensitivity to apoptosis. We demonstrate cytoplasmic co-localization and direct interaction between HBx and the cellular FLICE inhibitory protein (c-FLIP), a key regulator of the death-inducing signaling complex (DISC). Deletion analysis shows that the death effector domain I (DED1) of c-FLIP is important for the observed interaction. Overexpression of c-FLIP rescued the cells from HBx-mediated apoptosis, with both the full-length HBV genome and HBx expression vectors. Moreover, c-FLIP and caspase-8 inhibitor considerably protected cells from HBx-mediated apoptosis. These data suggest that HBx abrogates the apoptosis-inhibitory function of c-FLIP and renders the cell hypersensitive towards the TNF-α apoptotic signal even below threshold concentration. This provides a novel mechanism for deregulation of hepatic cell growth in HBV patients and a new target for intervention in HBV-associated liver cancer and disease.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)