Identification of substances with specific toxicity for carcinoma cells promises to facilitate the development of cancer chemotherapeutics that cause minimal side effects. Here, we show that knockdown of the farnesoid X receptor (FXR) effectively suppresses the proliferation of human hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines HepG2 and HLE accompanied by elevated expression of cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitor p16/INK4a and p21/Cip1 proteins. On the other hand, the growth of the primary human hepatocyte-derived cell line Fa2N-4 is not affected by the treatment with FXR siRNA irrespective of marked increases in the mRNAs of p16/INK4a and p21/Cip1. Surprisingly, the expression levels of p16/INK and p21/Cip1 proteins are left unchanged in Fa2N-4 cells that are subjected to the FXR siRNA treatment. Since the expression levels of these CDK inhibitor proteins in FXR-knockdown Fa2N-4 cells were elevated in the presence of proteasomal inhibitor MG132, these CDK inhibitors may be subjected to the proteasomal degradation, thereby counteracting the increased expression of their cognate mRNAs, therefore similar levels of p16 and p21 proteins were observed in control and FXR-knockdown Fa2N-4 cells. These results suggest that FXR-knockdown is effective for inhibiting the proliferation of hepatocellular carcinoma cells, not interfering with the regulatory mechanism of normal hepatocyte growth.
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