Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is one of the major causes of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development. Hepatitis B virus X protein (HBx) is known to play a key role in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Several cellular proteins have been reported to be over-expressed in HBV-associated HCC tissues, but their role in the HBV-mediated oncogenesis remains largely unknown. Here, we explored the effect of the over-expressed cellular protein, a ribosomal protein S3a (RPS3a), on the HBx-induced NF-κB signaling as a critical step for HCC development. The enhancement of HBx-induced NF-κB signaling by RPS3a was investigated by its ability to translocate NF-κB (p65) into the nucleus and the knock-down analysis of RPS3a. Notably, further study revealed that the enhancement of NF-κB by RPS3a is mediated by its novel chaperoning activity toward physiological HBx. The over-expression of RPS3a significantly increased the solubility of highly aggregation-prone HBx. This chaperoning function of RPS3a for HBx is closely correlated with the enhanced NF-κB activity by RPS3a. In addition, the mutational study of RPS3a showed that its N-terminal domain (1-50 amino acids) is important for the chaperoning function and interaction with HBx. The results suggest that RPS3a, via extra-ribosomal chaperoning function for HBx, contributes to virally induced oncogenesis by enhancing HBx-induced NF-κB signaling pathway.
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