Anhui Key Laboratory of Hepatopancreatobiliary Surgery, Department of General Surgery, Anhui Provincial Hospital, The First Affiliated Hospital of USTC, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, Anhui, China. [Email] [Email]
DIS3-like 3'-5' exoribonuclease 2 (DIS3L2) degrades aberrant RNAs, however, its function in tumorigenesis remains largely unexplored. Here, aberrant DIS3L2 expression promoted human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) progression via heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoproteins (hnRNP) U-mediated alternative splicing. DIS3L2 directly interacted with hnRNP U through its cold-shock domains and promoted inclusion of exon 3b during splicing of pre-Rac1 independent of its exonuclease activity, yielding an oncogenic splicing variant, Rac1b, which is known to stimulate cellular transformation and tumorigenesis. DIS3L2 regulated alternative splicing by recruiting hnRNP U to pre-Rac1. Rac1b was critical for DIS3L2 promotion of liver cancer development both in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, DIS3L2 and Rac1b expression highly correlated with HCC progression and patient survival. Taken together, our findings uncover an oncogenic role of DIS3L2, in which it promotes liver cancer progression through a previously unappreciated mechanism of regulating hnRNP U-mediated alterative splicing. SIGNIFICANCE: These findings establish the role and mechanism of the 3'-5' exoribonuclease DIS3L2 in hepatocellular carcinoma carcinogenesis.