Histone acetyltransferase PCAF accelerates apoptosis by repressing a GLI1/BCL2/BAX axis in hepatocellular carcinoma

X. Gai, K. Tu, C. Li, Z. Lu, L. R. Roberts, X. Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


P300/CBP-associated factor (PCAF), a histone acetyltransferase (HAT), has been found to regulate numerous cell signaling pathways controlling cell fate by acetylating both histone and non-histone proteins.We previously reported that PCAF upregulates cell apoptosis by inactivating Serine/Threonine Protein Kinase 1 (AKT1) signaling and consequently inhibits hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell growth. Here, we show that PCAF can directly acetylate cytoplasmic GLI1 protein at lysine 518, preventing its nuclear translocation and promoter occupancy, and consequently suppressing Hedgehog (Hh) signaling in HCC. Further, our results show that GLI1 can increase Bcl-2 expression and downregulate BAX. Interestingly, forced expression of PCAF reduced Bcl-2 expression, upregulated BAX and repressed cell apoptosis. Further, we provide evidence that knockdown of GLI1 abrogates the inhibitory effect of PCAF on the growth of HCC in vitro. PCAF was also found to sensitize HCC cells to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) treatment by regulating GLI1/Bcl-2/BAX axis-dependent apoptosis. In vivo experiments also confirmed the regulatory effect of PCAF on the GLI1/Bcl-2/BAX axis and its synergistic antitumor effects with 5-FU. Gene expression microarray studies showed that PCAF was downregulated in HCC tissues compared with adjacent liver tissues and that PCAF expression was significantly associated with longer overall survival and recurrence-free survival after surgery. Together, these results show that PCAF can induce cell apoptosis by modulating a GLI1/Bcl-2/BAX axis that in turn suppresses HCC progression, and suggest that 5-FU may exert a stronger anti-tumor effect in patients with PCAF expression in HCC tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1712
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 9 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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