Original Research

Relationship between Protein kinase C isoforms, Telomerase and Alpha- fetoprotein through PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway in Hepatocellular carcinoma


Protein kinase C (PKC) family has been an alluring objective for new cancer drug discovery. It has been reported to regulate telomerase in several cancer types. Our team had previously used telomerase to elucidate alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) modulation in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The aim of this study was to investigate the interrelationships among PKC isoforms, telomerase and AFP in HCC. PKCα and PKCδ were the most expressed isoforms in HepG2/C3A, PLC/PRF/5, SNU-387 and SKOV-3 cells. Following the upregulation of AFP using pCMV3-AFP and the human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) using a construct expressing a wild-type hTERT, and after their inhibition with all-trans retinoic acid and hTERT siRNA each respectively, we found that the expression of PKCα, PKCβI, PKCβII and PKCδ was affected by the variation of AFP and hTERT mRNA levels. An increase in AFP expression and secretion was observed after gene silencing of PKCα, PKCβ, PKCδ, and PKCε in HepG2/C3A. A similar pattern was observed in transfected PLC/PRF/5 cells, however PKCδ isoform silencing decreased AFP expression. Furthermore, telomerase activity was quantified using quantitative telomeric repeat amplification protocol. The variations in hTERT expression and telomerase activity were similar to those of AFP. Further investigation showed that PKC isoforms regulate AFP and hTERT expression levels through PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway in HepG2/C3A and PLC/PRF/5 cells. Thus, these results show for the first time a possible interrelationship that links PKC isoforms to both AFP and hTERT via PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway in HCC.

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