Survivin, a member of the IAP (inhibitor of apoptosis protein) family, plays important roles in maintaining cellular homoeostasis and regulating cell-cycle progression. This IAP is overexpressed in oesophageal cancer cells, leading to uncontrolled cell growth and resistance to apoptosis. CUG-BP1 (CUG-binding protein 1) is an RNA-binding protein that regulates the stability and translational efficiency of target mRNAs. In the present paper, we report that CUG-BP1 is overexpressed in oesophageal cancer cell lines and human oesophageal cancer specimens. CUG-BP1 associates with the 3′-untranslated region of survivin mRNA, thereby stabilizing the transcript and elevating its expression in oesophageal cancer cells. Our results show that overexpression of CUG-BP1 in oesophageal epithelial cells results in increased survivin mRNA stability and consequently survivin protein expression. Conversely, silencing CUG-BP1 in oesophageal cancer cells destabilizes survivin mRNA, lowering the level of survivin protein. In addition, we have found that altering CUG-BP1 expression modulates susceptibility to chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. Overexpression of CUG-BP1 in oesophageal epithelial cells increases resistance to apoptosis, whereas silencing CUG-BP1 makes oesophageal cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. Co-transfection experiments with small interfering RNA directed against survivin suggest that the anti-apoptotic role for CUG-BP1 is not entirely dependent on its effect on survivin expression.

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