Liver cancer initiation requires translational activation by an oncofetal regulon involving LIN28 proteins

Meng Hsiung Hsieh, Yonglong Wei, Lin Li, Liem H. Nguyen, Yu Hsuan Lin, Jung M. Yong, Xuxu Sun, Xun Wang, Xin Luo, Sarah K. Knutson, Christina Bracken, George Daley, John Powers, Hao Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is unknown which post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms are required for oncogenic competence. Here, we show that the LIN28 family of RNA-binding proteins (RBPs), which facilitate post-transcriptional RNA metabolism within ribonucleoprotein networks, are essential for the initiation of diverse oncotypes of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In HCC models driven by NRASG12V/Tp53, CTNNB1/YAP/Tp53, or AKT/Tp53, mice without Lin28a and Lin28b were markedly impaired in cancer initiation. We biochemically defined an oncofetal regulon of 15 factors connected to LIN28 through direct mRNA and protein interactions. Interestingly, all were RBPs and only 1 of 15 is a Let-7 target. Polysome profiling and reporter assays showed that LIN28B directly increased the translation of 8 of these 15 RBPs. As expected, overexpression of LIN28B and IGFBP1-3 were able to genetically rescue cancer initiation. Using this platform to probe components downstream of LIN28, we found that 8 target RBPs were able to restore NRASG12V/Tp53 cancer formation in Lin28a/Lin28b deficient mice. Furthermore, these LIN28B targets promote cancer initiation through an increase in protein synthesis. LIN28B, central to an RNP regulon that increases translation of RBPs, is important for tumor initiation in the liver.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number11
StatePublished - 3 Jun 2024
Externally publishedYes


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