Overexpression of a DEAD box/RNA helicase protein, rck/p54, in human hepatocytes from patients with hepatitis C virus-related chronic hepatitis and its implication in hepatocellular carcinogenesis

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SUMMARY.Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the most common cause of chronic hepatitis, which frequently progresses to hepatocellular carcinoma. The pathogenesis of its persistent infection and tumour progression has not been fully characterized yet. The RCK gene was previously cloned at the breakpoint of the t(11;14)(q23;q32) chromosome translocation observed in human B-cell lymphoma cell line RC-K8. The RCK protein, rck/p54, which is a 54-kDa cytoplasmic protein belonging to the DEAD box/RNA helicase family, is considered to facilitate the translation of mRNA(s) of genes for cell proliferation and malignant transformation not only in B-cell lymphomas having the t(11;14) translocation but also in other solid tumours. The aim of this work was to examine the involvement of rck/p54 in carcinogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma from HCV-related chronic hepatitis. We examined the expression of rck/p54 in 29 cases of HCV-related chronic hepatitis and eight cases of hepatocellular carcinoma by immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis. Twenty-six of 29 cases with HCV-related chronic hepatitis and all cases with hepatocellular carcinoma tested overexpressed rck/p54 protein. The expression of rck/p54 was lowered by treatment with IFN-α in two cases who showed the decrease in HCV RNA levels. These findings suggest that rck/p54 protein is possibly involved in the replication of HCV genomes in hepatocytes and in tumourigenesis of hepatocellular carcinomas.

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