Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Increased phosphorylation of histone H3 at serine 10 is involved in Epstein-Barr virus latent membrane protein-1-induced carcinogenesis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma

Binbin Li12, Guoliang Huang2, Xiangning Zhang3, Rong Li3, Jian Wang2, Ziming Dong1* and Zhiwei He2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pathophysiology, Basic Medical College of Zhengzhou University, No.100 of Science Road, Zhengzhou, 450001, China

2 Key Laboratory for Medical Diagnostics of Guangdong Province, Sino-American Cancer Research Institute, Guangdong Medical College, No. 1 Xincheng Road, Guangdong, Dongguan, 523808, China

3 Department of Pathophysiology, Guangdong Medical College, Guangdong, Dongguan, 523808, China

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BMC Cancer 2013, 13:124  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-124

Published: 18 March 2013



Increased histone H3 phosphorylation is an essential regulatory mechanism for neoplastic cell transformation. We aimed to explore the role of histone H3 phosphorylation at serine10 (p-H3Ser10) in Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) latent membrane protein-1 (LMP1)-induced carcinogenesis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC).


The expression of p-H3Ser10 was detected by the immunohistochemical analysis in NPC, chronic nasopharyngitis and normal nasopharynx tissues, and its correlation with LMP1 was analyzed in NPC tissues and cell lines. Using the small interfering RNA (siRNA)-H3 and histone H3 mutant (S10A), the effect of histone H3 Ser10 motif on LMP1-induced CNE1 cell proliferation, transformation and activator protein-1 (AP-1) activation were evaluated by CCK-8, focus-forming and reporter gene assay respectively. Mitogen- and stress-activated kinase 1 (MSK1) kinase activity and phosphorylation were detected by in vitro kinase assay and western blot. Using MSK1 inhibitor H89 or siRNA-MSK1, the regulatory role of MSK1 on histone H3 phosphorylation and AP-1 activation were analyzed.


Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that the expression of p-H3Ser10 was significantly higher in the poorly differentiated NPC tissues than that in chronic nasopharyngitis (p <0.05) and normal nasopharynx tissues (p <0.001). Moreover, high level of p-H3Ser10 was positively correlated with the expression of LMP1 in NPC tissues (χ2=6.700, p =0.01; C=0.350) and cell lines. The knockdown and mutant (S10A) of histone H3 suppressed LMP1-induced CNE1 cell proliferation, foci formation and AP-1 activation. In addition, LMP1 could increase MSK1 kinase activity and phosphorylation. MSK1 inhibitor H89 or knockdown of MSK1 by siRNA blocked LMP1-induced phosphorylation of histone H3 at Ser10 and AP-1 activation.


EBV-LMP1 can induce phosphorylation of histone H3 at Ser10 via MSK1. Increased phosphorylation of histone H3 at Ser10 is likely a crucial regulatory mechanism involved in LMP1-induced carcinogenesis of NPC.

Histone H3 phosphorylation; Nasopharyngeal carcinoma; Epstein-Barr virus latent membrane protein-1; MSK1