Overexpression of heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), an endoplasmic reticulum-anchored enzyme, is observed in many cancers. HO-1 nuclear translocation has been shown to correlate with progression of several cancers. We recently reported that HO-1 is susceptible to intramembrane proteolysis and translocates to the nucleus to promote cancer growth and invasiveness without depending on its enzymatic activity. In the present study, we show that the HO-1 lacking C-terminal transmembrane segment (t-HO-1) was susceptible to acetylation by p300 and CREB-binding protein (CBP) histone acetyltransferase in the nucleus. Mass spectrometry analysis of HO-1 isolated from human embryonic kidney cells 293T (HEK293T) cells overexpressing CBP and t-HO-1 revealed two acetylation sites located at K243 and K256. Mutation of both lysine residues to arginine (R) abolished t-HO-1-enhanced tumor cell growth, migration and invasion. However, mutation of the lysine residues to glutamine (Q), a mimic of acetylated lysine, had no significant effect on t-HO-1-mediated tumorigenicity. Mechanistic studies demonstrated that transcriptional factor JunD interacted with wild-type (WT) t-HO-1 and mutant carrying K243/256Q but not K243/256 R mutation. Moreover, JunD-induced AP-1 transcriptional activity was significantly enhanced by coexpression with WT and acetylation-mimic but not acetylation-defective t-HO-1. Consistent with the in vitro observations, the implication of K243/256 acetylation in t-HO-1-enhanced tumorigenicity was also demonstrated in xenograft models. Immunohistochemistry performed with a specific antibody against acetyl-HO-1 showed the positive acetyl-HO-1 nuclear staining in human lung cancer tissues but not in the corresponding non-tumor tissues, supporting its clinical significance. Collectively, our findings highlight the importance of nuclear HO-1 post-translational modification in the induction of cancer progression.
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