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HCV Activates Somatic L1 Retrotransposition—A Potential Hepatocarcinogenesis Pathway

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Praveen Dhondurao Sudhindar, Daniel Wainwright, Dr Santu SahaORCiD, Rachel Howarth, Misti McCainORCiD, Dr Yvonne BuryORCiD, Professor Stuart McPhersonORCiD, Professor Helen ReevesORCiD, Professor John LunecORCiD, Dr Ruchi ShuklaORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Abstract: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a common cause of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Activation and mutagenic consequences of L1 retrotransposons in virus-associated-HCC have been documented. However, the direct influence of HCV upon L1 elements is unclear, and is the focus of the present study. L1 transcript expression was evaluated in a publicly available liver tissue RNA-seq dataset from patients with chronic HCV hepatitis (CHC), as well as healthy controls. L1 transcript expression was significantly higher in CHC than in controls. L1orf1p (a L1 encoded protein) expression was observed in 6 out of 11 CHC livers by immunohistochemistry. To evaluate the influence of HCV on retrotransposition efficiency, in vitro engineered-L1 retrotransposition assays were employed in Huh7 cells in the presence and absence of an HCV replicon. Increased retrotransposition rate was observed in the presence of replicating HCV RNA, and persisted in cells after viral clearance by sofosbuvir (PSI7977) treatment. Increased retrotransposition could be due to dysregulation of the DNA-damage repair response, including homologous recombination, due to HCV infection. Together these data suggest that L1 expression can be activated before oncogenic transformation in CHC patients, with HCV-upregulated retrotransposition potentially contributing to HCC genomic instability and risk of transformation that persists post-viral clearance.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sudhindar PD, Wainwright D, Saha S, Howarth R, McCain M, Bury Y, Saha SS, McPherson S, Reeves H, Patel AH, Faulkner GJ, Lunec J, Shukla R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cancers

Year: 2021

Volume: 13

Issue: 20

Online publication date: 11/10/2021

Acceptance date: 07/10/2021

Date deposited: 02/11/2021

ISSN (electronic): 2072-6694

Publisher: MDPI AG


DOI: 10.3390/cancers13205079


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Funder referenceFunder name
C18342/A23390Cancer Research UK CRUK (open competition)
Newcastle University Overseas Research Scholarship scheme
Newcastle University’s Research Fellowship