1. Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, The First Affiliated Hospital of Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, Shaanxi, 710061, PR China.
2. Department of Neurosurgery, The First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, 510080, PR China.
Rationale: Recently, long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), known to be involved in human cancer progression, have been shown to encode peptides with biological functions, but the role of lncRNA-encoded peptides in cellular senescence is largely unexplored. We previously reported the tumor-suppressive role of PINT87aa, a peptide encoded by the long intergenic non-protein coding RNA, p53 induced transcript (LINC-PINT). Here, we investigated PINT87aa's role in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cellular senescence.
Methods: We examined PINT87aa and truncated PINT87aa functions in vitro by monitoring cell proliferation and performed flow cytometry, senescence-associated β-galactosidase staining, JC-1 staining indicative of mitochondrial membrane potential, the ratio of the overlapping area of light chain 3 beta (LC3B) and mitochondrial probes and the ratio of lysosomal associated membrane protein 1 (LAMP1) overlapping with cytochrome c oxidase subunit 4I1 (COXIV) denoting mitophagy. PINT87aa and truncated PINT87aa functions in vivo were verified by subcutaneously transplanted tumors in nude mice. The possible binding between PINT87aa and forkhead box M1 (FOXM1) was predicted through structural analysis and verified by co-immunoprecipitation and immunofluorescence co-localization. Rescue experiments were performed in vivo and in vitro following FOXM1 overexpression. Further, chromatin immunoprecipitation, polymerase chain reaction, and dual-luciferase reporter gene assay were conducted to validate FOXM1 binding to the prohibitin 2 (PHB2) promoter.
Results: PINT87aa was significantly increased in the hydrogen peroxide-induced HCC cell senescence model. Overexpression of PINT87aa induced growth inhibition, cellular senescence, and decreased mitophagy in vitro and in vivo. In contrast, FOXM1 gain-of-function could partially reduce the proportion of senescent HCC cells and enhance mitophagy. PINT87aa overexpression did not affect the expression of FOXM1 itself but reduced that of its target genes involved in cell cycle and proliferation, especially PHB2, which was involved in mitophagy and transcribed by FOXM1. Structural analysis indicated that PINT87aa could bind to the DNA-binding domain of FOXM1, which was confirmed by co-immunoprecipitation and immunofluorescence co-localization. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the 2 to 39 amino acid truncated form of the peptide exerted effects similarly to the full form.
Conclusion: Our study established the role of PINT87aa as a novel biomarker and a key regulator of cellular senescence in HCC and identified PINT87aa as a potential therapeutic target for HCC.
Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma, PINT87aa, cellular senescence, FOXM1, mitophagy.