We previously reported the tumor suppressor function of Zinc-fingers and homeoboxes 2 (ZHX2) in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Other studies indicate the association of increased ZHX2 expression with improved response to high dose chemotherapy in multiple myeloma. Here, we aim to test whether increased ZHX2 levels in HCC cells repress multidrug resistance 1(MDR1) expression resulting in increased sensitivity to chemotherapeutic drugs. We showed evidence that increased ZHX2 levels correlated with reduced MDR1 expression and enhanced the cytotoxicity of CDDP and ADM in different HCC cell lines. Consistently, elevated ZHX2 significantly reduced ADM efflux in HepG2 cells and greatly increased the CDDP-mediated suppression of liver tumor growth in vivo. Furthermore, immunohistochemical staining demonstrated the inverse correlation of ZHX2 and MDR1 expression in HCC tissues. Luciferase report assay showed that ZHX2 repressed the MDR1 promoter activity, while knockdown of NF-YA or mutating the NF-Y binding site eliminated this ZHX2-mediated repression of MDR1 transcription. Co-IP and ChIP assay further suggested that ZHX2 interacted with NF-YA and reduced NF-Y binding to the MDR1 promoter. Taken together, we clarify that ZHX2 represses NF-Y-mediated activation of MDR1 transcription and, in doing so, enhances the effects of chemotherapeutics in HCC cells both in vitro and in vivo.

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Published in Oncotarget, v. 6, no. 2, p. 1049-1063.

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This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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This work was supported in part by grants from the NSFC of China (81370527 and 30972753), the Programme for NCET-10-0524, and the The National Natural Science Fund for Outstanding Youth Fund (81425012).

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