HCCR-1, a novel oncogene, encodes a mitochondrial outer membrane protein and suppresses the UVC-induced apoptosis
© Cho et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2007
Received: 30 April 2007
Accepted: 28 November 2007
Published: 28 November 2007
The Human cervical cancer oncogene (HCCR-1) has been isolated as a human oncoprotein, and has shown strong tumorigenic features. Its potential role in tumorigenesis may result from a negative regulation of the p53 tumor suppressor gene.
To investigate the biological function of HCCR-1 in the cell, we predicted biological features using bioinformatic tools, and have identified a LETM1 homologous domain at position 75 to 346 of HCCR-1. This domain contains proteins identified from diverse species predicted to be mitochondrial proteins. Fluorescence microscopy and fractionation experiments showed that HCCR-1 is located in mitochondria in the COS-7, MCF-7 and HEK/293 cell lines, and subcompartamentally at the outer membrane in the HEK/293 cell line. The topological structure was revealed as the NH2-terminus of HCCR-1 oriented toward the cytoplasm. We also observed that the D1-2 region, at position 1 to 110 of HCCR-1, was required and sufficient for posttranslational mitochondrial import. The function of HCCR-1 on mitochondrial membrane is to retard the intrinsic apoptosis induced by UVC and staurosporine, respectively.
Our experiments show the biological features of HCCR-1 in the cell, and suggest that uncontrolled expression of HCCR-1 may cause mitochondrial dysfunction that can result in resisting the UVC or staurosporine-induced apoptosis and progressing in the tumor formation.
Mitochondria are responsible for a number of metabolic tasks in eukaryotic cells. Their primary function is to generate energy through oxidative phosphorylation in organelles. Mitochondria also play an important role in other biological activities such as programmed cell death , calcium signaling and generation of detoxification of reactive oxygen species .
Mitochondria consist of four subcompartments – an outer membrane, an inner membrane, an inter-membrane space and matrix. The chaperone proteins, and the translocase components, help mitochondrial transport into the subcompartments through their membranes . During the cytoplasmic translation of mitochondrial proteins, they are recognized by chaperone proteins which interfere with the folding of the protein. A positively charged signal sequence, on the mitochondrial protein, then binds to the translocase components called translocase of the outer mitochondrial membrane (TOM) located on the outer mitochondrial membrane [4, 5], the protein is moved into the TOM complex. Translocase of the inner mitochondrial membrane (TIM) [6, 7], is an inner membrane protein complex that forms a pore, and acts to pull the mitochondrial protein through the pore. On the inside of the pore, different chaperone proteins recognize the mitochondrial protein and fold it into a functional form. The signal sequence is removed by a mitochondrial signal peptidase as the mitochondrial protein enters the matrix.
The leucine zipper-, EF-hand-containing transmembrane protein 1 (LETM1) is one of the mitochondrial proteins that is posttranslationally imported into the mitochondrial inner membrane . This gene has been identified from the Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome (WHS)  which is characterized by multiple congenital anomalies, severe pre- and post-natal growth retardation and mental retardation [10, 11]. In almost all patients with WHS, LETM1 is part of a deletion found at the chromosome 4 location . Its role in WHS may be based on mitochondrial K+ homeostasis .
The human cervical cancer oncogene (HCCR) has been isolated and identified as a human oncoprotein ; it has revealed strong tumorigenic features in experiments on nude mice . Its role in tumorigenesis may be negative regulation of the p53 tumor suppressor gene . HCCR-transgenic mice have been shown to develop breast cancers and metastasis . In order to investigate the functional role of HCCR-1, we predicted the biological features using bioinformatic tools. In addition, we identified the subcellular location and the targeting signal of HCCR-1.
Results and Discussion
HCCR-1 has a LETM1 homologous domain, and is predicted to be a mitochondrial protein
Prediction of mitochondrial targeting of HCCR-1 and LETM1 domain-containing proteins.
HCCR-1 is expressed on the mitochondrial outer membrane
Sequence analysis of the HCCR-1 protein, using the Hopp-Woods method of calculating hydrophilicity and TMHMM Server Version 2.0 , revealed the presence of two hydrophobic segments, one extending from 139 to 161 residues which was predicted a transmembrane domain (TM) and the other extending from position 81 to 98 amino acids which may be involved in anchoring to a membranous component. Therefore, HCCR-1 is predicted to be an integral membrane protein.
To examine whether HCCR-1 is a mitochondrial membrane protein, the HEK293/HCCR-1-V5 cell lines were studied for subcelllular fractionation experiments. Nuclear (Fig 2B, lane1), post-mitochondrial supernatant (Fig 2B, lane2), and mitochondrial (Fig 2B, lane3) fractions were separated by differential centrifugation. The isolated mitochondria were solubilized by treatment with alkaline sodium carbonate  and ultra-centrifuged to separate the soluble proteins (Fig 2B, lane 5) from the insoluble integral membrane proteins (Fig 2B, lane 4). Each of the fractionated proteins were displayed by SDS-PAGE and analyzed by immunoblotting using antibodies to the V5 epitope (Fig 2B, top panel), voltage dependant anion channel 1 (VDAC-1) which is expressed on the mitochondrial membrane  (Fig 2B, middle panel) and superoxide dismutase-2 (SOD-2) on the mitochondrial matrix  (Fig 2B, bottom panel). The HCCR-1 protein was found in the mitochondrial fraction (Fig 2B, lane3) which is consistent with the previous result shown in figure 2A. Treatment with alkaline sodium carbonate did not solubilize the mitochondrial integral membrane protein VDAC-1 (Fig 2B, middle panel, lane 4), but did disrupt the mitochondrial membrane as a result of exposing the matrix protein SOD-2 (Fig 2B, bottom panel, lane 5). HCCR-1 protein also remained in the pellet fraction (Fig 2B, top panel, lane 4); these findings suggest that HCCR-1 is exclusively localized in the mitochondrial membrane.
Since HCCR-1 was localized to the mitochondrial membrane, we evaluated the topological structure of HCCR-1. Bioinformatic analyses using the TMHMM Server Version 2.0 , showed that the NH2-terminus of HCCR-1 is exposed to the cytoplasm, and also predicted that HCCR-1 is a type II integral membrane protein.
To examine the HCCR-1 topology, the intact mitochondria were isolated from HEK293/HCCR-V5 cell lines and incubated with and without proteinase K or proteinase K plus Triton X-100. Each treatment was subjected to SDS-PAGE and visualized by immunoblotting using antibodies to the V5 epitope (Fig 2C, top panel), TOM40 which expresses on the outer mitochondrial membrane [4, 5] (Fig 2C, second panel), TIM23 on the inner mitochondrial membrane [6, 7] (Fig 2C, third panel), and SOD-2 on the mitochondrial matrix (Fig 2C, bottom panel). TIM23 and SOD-2 proteins were protease resistant in the mitochondria, which indicate that these proteins were not exposed to the surface. By contrast, Tom40, an outer membrane protein protruding to the surface, was sensitive to proteinase K and weakly detected by its polyclonal antibody (Fig 2C, lane 2). Interestingly, the immunoblot analysis, using anti-V5 monoclonal antibody, detected two sized proteins – a full sized HCCR-1-V5 (about 39 kDa) and a little smaller sized protein (about 32 kDa); this indicates that the NH2-terminus of HCCR-1 was partially degraded by the proteinase K, while the COOH-terminus of HCCR-1, containing V5 epitope, was protected from the protease activity in the intact mitochondria. This suggests that HCCR-1 is located on the outer mitochondrial membrane (Fig 2C). This result also suggests that the topological structure of HCCR-1 is indeed consistent with the bioinformatic prediction as shown in figure 2D. Upon disintegration of the membrane proteins by treatment with Triton X-100, all proteins were digested by proteinase K, showing that none of them was intrinsically protease-resistant (Fig 2C, lane 3).
Mitochondrial targeting sequences are in the NH2-terminus of HCCR-1
The targeting signal, on mitochondrial proteins, often exists on their DNA fragments coding for the amino terminal region of the protein [22–24] and does not have a conserved sequence, but rather share a common physical property. This feature is the ability to form an amphipathic α-helix, one in which positively charged amino acids are localized to one surface of the helix [25–27]. This signal sequence is recognized by the receptors on the mitochondrial outer membrane and imported into mitochondria. We have shown that HCCR-1 is also a mitochondrial protein. This protein may be posttranslationally transported to mitochondria and then imported into mitochondria by recognition of the signal sequence.
The D1-2 region of HCCR-1 is required for its mitochondrial targeting
Therefore, the mitochondrial localization of HCCR-1 requires its D1-2 region, which partially belongs to the LETM1 domain of HCCR-1. By contrast, D1-1 which contains NH2-terminus of HCCR-1 and D2-2 which belongs the LETM1 domain of HCCR-1, were prevented from localizing to mitochondria. This suggests that the D1-1 region may be co-related with the D2-2 region for mitochondrial targeting.
HCCR D1-2 mutant was exclusively localized at the mitochondria
At the figure 4B and 5B, most of D2-2 and D2-3 mutants are located on mitochondria although some of them are failed to reach to mitochondria. This suggests that HCCR-1 cytosolic form such as HCCR-2 which is deleted at position 1 to 56 amino acids, may exist. This cytosolic form could act as a negative regulator of p53 or could not. However, we propose that this form may not affect the HCCR function because it may also mainly localize at mitochondria.
Suppression of UVC- or staurosporine-induced apopotosis in HCCR-1 overexpressed cell
We have shown that overexpression of the cDNA encoding HCCR-1 led to the detection of the protein in mitochondira compartment in COS-7, MCF-7 and HEK-293 cells (Fig 2A). However, the previous immunofluorescence study showed that HCCR was predominantly localized in the plasma membrane and cytoplasm of hepatocellular carcinoma . Interestingly, our resent analysis of HCCR mRNA using reverse transcription-PCR and sequencing has identified several HCCR isoforms from various cancerous cell lines and tissues (data not shown). The expression of these isoforms also depended on the cell type and tissues, while some of the isoforms were predicted to be different subcellular organelles. This could be invoked, for example, to account for the generation of the other cellular compartment pool of HCCR.
HCCR-1 has been isolated and identified as a strong oncoprotein with tumorigenic features [13, 14]. Interestingly, this protein has been localized to the mitochondrial membrane which has been deeply related to the intrinsic apoptotic signal [1, 32]. Here, we showed that the oncoprotein HCCR-1 represses mitochondrial dysfunction caused by its uncontrolled expression. This may prevent the apoptotic signal, block the senescence, and induce cancer development. Therefore, the present data now make it possible to investigate mitochondrial function and mitochondria-mediated apoptosis in HCCR-1 overexpressed cells.
We report that HCCR-1 is a LETM1 domain homologous protein and is predicted to be a mitochondrial protein. Fluorescence microscopy and fractionation experiments showed that HCCR-1 localizes to the mitochondria in COS-7, MCF-7 and HEK293 cell lines and subcompartamentally at its outer membrane in HEK293 cell lines. Its topology is revealed by the NH2-terminus of HCCR-1 which is oriented toward the cytoplasm. We also demonstrated that the HCCR D1-2 domain (amino acids 1–110) is required and sufficient for posttranslational mitochondrial import. Finally, the function of HCCR-1 on mitochondrial membrane suppresses the intrinsic apoptotic signal which is induced by UVC and staurosporine, in respectively.
Cell culture and Transfection
Human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 (ATCC CRL-1573), COS-7 (ATCC CRL-1651) and MCF-7 breast cancer (ATCC HTB-22) cells were obtained from the American Type Culture Collection (Manassas, VA). HEK293/HCCR-1-V5 cell line  which stably expressed V5 tagged HCCR-1 in HEK293 cells, was maintained in DMEM (Gibco, Grand Island, NY) containing 200 μg/ml G418, 10% FBS (Hyclone, Logan, Ut) and 1% PenStrep (Gibco, Grand Island, NY). COS-7 cell line was maintained in RPMI (Gibco, Grand Island, NY) supplemented with 10% FBS and 1% PenStrep. All cells were incubated at 37°C, 5% CO2.
DNA constructs and Transfection
HCCR-1, and its deletion mutants, were amplified using a Peltier Thermal Cycler PTC-200 (MJ Research, MA) with the primers DL1-F (5'-CCGCTCGAG CGGATGGCGCTCTCCAGGGTGTG-3') and FU-R (5'-CGGGATCCCGCGCCTTGTCCCAAGGTAGT-3') for HCCR-1 full open reading frame (ORF), the primers DL1-F and DL1-R (5'-CGGGATCCCCTGACGACCCAAGAAACGAT-3') for D1-1, the primers DL1-F and DL2-R (5'-CGGGATCCCCATATTTGTCTTTATTCTTC-3') for D1-2, the primers DL1-F and DL3-R (5'-CGGGATCCCGGGGGTCCAGAAATGCCTGAT-3') for D1-3, the primers DL2-F (5'-CCGCTCGAG CGGATGTCTTATGTGGTAACCAA-3') and DL1-R for D2-1, the primers DL2-F and DL2-R for D2-2, and the primers DL2-F and DL3-R for D2-3. The primers used in these PCR reactions were synthesized from GenoTech (GenoTech, Daejeon, Korea). Restriction enzyme sites were underlined – single lines for Xho I and double lines for Bam HI. The PCR cycling parameters were as follows: initial denaturation at 94°C for 2 min; 30 cycles of 30 s at 94°C for denaturation, 30 s at 55°C for primer annealing, and 1 min at 72°C for extension; and final extension at 72°C for 10 min. After amplification, the PCR products were resolved by an agarose gel electrophoresis and purified using Qiagen columns (Qiagen Inc, Valencia, CA). The PCR products were subcloned into the pEGFP-N1 vector (Promega, Madison, WI) at Xho I and Bam HI sites and sequenced.
For the DNA transfection, all the recombinant plasmids were prepared using Qiagen columns (Qiagen Inc, Valencia, CA) and DNA transfection was performed according to the manufacturer's instructions using LipofectAMINE 2000 reagent (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA). Plasmid DNA (0.5 μg) was transfected to COS-7 cells grown on a 6 well dish and the cells were incubated for 24 -28 h before analysis.
Isolation and subfractionation of Mitochondria
Subcellular fractionation of HEK293/HCCR-1-V5 and COS-7 cells was carried out according to the mitochondria isolation kit (PIERCE, Rockford, IL). Briefly, cells were harvested by centrifuging at 850 g for 2 min and the pellet was suspended with 800 μl of reagent A, and then incubated exactly 2 min on ice. Next 10 μl of Reagent B was added to the suspended solution and incubated for 5 min on ice with vortexing at maximum speed every minute. Then 800 μl of Reagent C was added to the solution and inverted the tube several times to mix. The solution was centrifuged at 700 g for 10 min at 4°C, and the pellet was used for crude nucleic fraction. The supernatant was continuously centrifuged at 12,000 g for 15 min at 4°C and transferred to a new tube for the post-mitochondrial supernatant fraction. The pellet was washed with 500 μl of Regent C, and used for isolation of the mitochondrial fraction.
For the isolation of the mitochondrial membrane fraction, the isolated mitochondria were resuspended in 200 μl of freshly prepared 100 mM sodium carbonate pH 11.5 and incubated on ice for 30 min, and centrifuged at 100,000 g for 30 min at 4°C. The supernatant was used as a mitochondrial matrix fraction. The pellet was resuspended with the same volume (200 μl) of 1X SDS loading buffer and used as a mitochondrial membrane fraction.
Analysis of Topology
Intact mitochondria were isolated from cultured HEK293/HCCR-1-V5 cells and diluted with MSB buffer (150 mM Potassium acetate, 5 mM Magnesium acetate, 50 mM HEPES pH 7.6, 200 mM Sucrose, 1 mM DTT) and treated with or without 50 μg/ml of proteinase K or proteinase K plus 1% Triton X-100 at room temperature for 30 min. Stop proteolysis was performed by adding 15% (w/v) trichloroacetic acid (TCA, Sigma-Aldrich Corporation, MO) and incubating for 15 min on ice. TCA pellets were collected by microcentrifuging for 5 min at 8,000 g, at room temperature. The supernatants were carefully removed and the pellets were suspended in 30 μl of 1X SDS sample buffer by vortex mixing and subjected to Western blot analysis.
Western blot analysis
Each fraction was quantified with the BCA Protein Assay Reagent kit (PIERCE, Rockford, IL). Samples in 1X SDS sample buffer were subjected to electrophoresis in a SDS-PAGE and transferred to nitrocellulose by standard procedures. Membranes were blocked with 5% nonfat milk and 0.05% Tween 20 in TBS (Tris-buffered saline, pH8.0) for 1 h at room temperature. After washing with 0.05% Tween 20 in TBS, the membranes were incubated with primary antibodies, anti-V5 (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA), anti-GFP (Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Santa Cruz, CA), anti-TOM40 (Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Santa Cruz, CA), anti-TIM23 (Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Santa Cruz, CA), anti-SOD-2 (Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Santa Cruz, CA), or anti-VDAC1 (Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Santa Cruz, CA) antibodies. After washing with 0.05% Tween 20 in TBS, immunoblots were incubated with horseradish-peroxidase conjugated rabbit anti-mouse IgG (Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Santa Cruz, CA) or goat anti-rabbit IgG (KPL, Gaithersburg, MD), and proteins were visualized using enhanced chemiluminescence according to the manufacturer's instructions (PIERCE, Rockford, IL).
Coverslips were washed with HCl, three times with distilled water and twice with 100% Ethanol. Dried coverslips were then coated with 5 μg/ml Poly-L-Lysine (Sigma-Aldrich Corporation, MO) for overnight at 37°C. COS-7 and HEK293/HCCR-1-V5 cells were seeded onto precoated coverslips in 6 well plates. Then following one day incubation, the cells were transiently transfected using LipofectAMINE 2000 (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA). After 24–28 h further incubation, 100 nM MitoTracker (Molecular Probes, Eugene, OR) was added to the medium and incubated for 15 min at the same culture condition and washed three times with 2 ml PBS before fixation. The cells on the coverslips were then fixed with 4% paraformaldyhyde containing 4% sucrose at 4°C for 10 min. To stain V5 tagged HCCR-1, HEK293/HCCR-1-V5 cells were fixed with 100% methanol at -20°C for 1 min and washed three times with PBS and incubated with mouse anti-V5 antibody (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA) at a dilution of 1:300 for 1 h at room temperature. They were washed with PBS, Alexa Fluor 488 goat anti-mouse IgG antibody (Molecular Probes, Eugene, OR) at a dilution of 5 μg/ml was applied for 1 h at room temperature. The cells were washed three times with PBS and mounted using ProLong Gold Antifade Reagents (Molecular Probes, Eugene, OR). Fluorescent images were analyzed and taken using a Bio-Rad MRC-1024MP laser scanning confocal microscope (Bio-Rad, Hercules, CA).
Flow cytometric analysis
The cells were stimulated with the 40 J/m2 of the short-wave length light (UVC) ray and incubated then for 2 days, or with 100 nM staurosporine and 300 nM actinomycin D for overnight, in respectively. After the stimulation, cells were washed two times with ice-cold PBS and stored at -20°C with 5 ml of 70% Ethanol for a day. For the Propidium iodide staining, cells were resuspended and collected by centrifugation at 4°C and washed two times with PBS and then resuspended with 0.5 ml of PBS. 10 μl of RNase (100 μg/ml) were added and the cells were incubated at 37°C for 20 min. After removing RNAs, 1 μl of Propidum iode (50 μg/ml) were added and incubated at 37°C for 10 min for staining. And then analyzed on a BRYTE HS flow cytometer (Bio-rad, Herts, England).
List of abbreviations used
human cervical cancer oncogene
leucine zipper-, EF-hand-containing transmembrane protein 1
translocase of the outer mitochondrial membrane
translocase of the inner mitochondrial membrane
- HEK 293:
human embryonic kidney 293
Dulbecco's modified Eagle's Medium
polymerase chain reaction
green fluorescent protein
phosphate buffered saline
voltage dependant anion channel 1
This work was supported by a Grant of the "Seoul R & BD Program" (2006) and the Korea Research Foundation Grant funded by Korea Government (MOEHRD, Basic Research Promotion Fund) (KRF-2005-206-E00004).
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