Transcription factor LSF: a mitotic regulator in hepatocellular carcinoma cells
Willoughby, Jennifer Lynn Sherman
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Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide. Current treatments are subpar, with late stage diagnosis and poor prognosis contributing to limited treatment options. The evolutionarily conserved, ubiquitously expressed transcription factor LSF is overexpressed in HCC, and its expression is positively correlated with disease severity. Certain small molecules, known as Factor Quinolinone Inhibitors (FQIs), specifically inhibit LSF DNA-binding activity, inhibit HCC cell proliferation in vitro and prevent tumor growth in an endogenous mouse liver cancer model without apparent toxicity. The targeting of transcription factors by small molecule inhibitors has been historically difficult (Dunker and Uversky, 2010), warranting further molecular investigation into the requirement for LSF in HCC to confirm that the anti-tumor effects of FQIs are the consequence of LSF inhibition. This body of work investigates a dual approach for inhibiting LSF function in order to determine the molecular consequences for HCC cells. To identify the specific point of the cell cycle where LSF is required for HCC proliferation, synchronous HCC cells were treated with FQI or with short interfering RNA to reduce levels of LSF. The results indicate that LSF is required for proper mitotic progression in HCC cells. Specifically, these data show a reduction of key mitotic regulators Aurora Kinase B and Cdc20, at the level of mRNA and protein expression. Time-lapse microscopy also demonstrated an increase in the time for progression through mitosis, with a prometaphase/metaphase delay. Immunofluorescence analysis revealed a prometaphase delay plus aberrant cell division and generation of multi-nucleated cells. These findings were consistent with both FQI1 treatment and RNA interference. Additionally, shorter incubation with FQI1 surprisingly revealed a distinct, non-transcriptional regulation of mitosis in HCC cells, suggesting that mitotic regulation by LSF is multi-faceted. As a targeted therapy for use in the clinic, the in vivo toxicity of FQIs is critical to investigate. Whole blood provides populations of rapidly dividing normal cells that can test susceptibility to anti-mitotic compounds. When mice were treated with FQI1, the blood analysis showed no toxicity. Taken together, these findings indicate that LSF is a mitotic regulator in HCC, further supporting the therapeutic promise of molecular therapies targeting LSF.