Clinical significance of PNO1 as a novel biomarker and therapeutic target of hepatocellular carcinoma

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Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine


The RNA-binding protein PNO1 plays an essential role in ribosome biogenesis. Recent studies have shown that it is involved in tumorigenesis; however, its role in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is not well understood. The purpose of this study was to examine whether PNO1 can be used as a biomarker of HCC and also examine the therapeutic potential of PNO1 knockout for the treatment of HCC. PNO1 expression was upregulated in HCC and associated with poor prognosis. PNO1 expression was positively associated with tumour stage, lymph node metastasis and poor survival. PNO1 expression was significantly higher in HCC compared to that in fibrolamellar carcinoma or normal tissues. Furthermore, HCC tissues with mutant Tp53 expressed higher PNO1 than those with wild-type Tp53. PNO1 knockout suppressed cell viability, colony formation and EMT of HCC cells. Since activation of Notch signalling pathway promotes HCC, we measured the effects of PNO1 knockout on the components of Notch pathway and its targets. PNO1 knockout suppressed Notch signalling by modulating the expression of Notch ligands and their receptors, and downstream targets. PNO1 knockout also inhibited genes involved in surface adhesion, cell cycle, inflammation and chemotaxis. PNO1 knockout also inhibited colony and spheroid formation, cell migration and invasion, and markers of stem cells, pluripotency and EMT in CSCs. Overall, our data suggest that PNO1 can be used as a diagnostic and prognostic biomarker of HCC, and knockout of PNO1 by CRISPR/Cas9 can be beneficial for the management of HCC by targeting CSCs.

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