Theranostics 2020; 10(8):3749-3766. doi:10.7150/thno.42596

Research Paper

CAMSAP2-mediated noncentrosomal microtubule acetylation drives hepatocellular carcinoma metastasis

Dongxiao Li1,2*, Xiangming Ding1,2*, Meng Xie1,2, Zheng Huang1,2, Ping Han1, Dean Tian1,2, Limin Xia1,2✉

1. Department of Gastroenterology, Tongji Hospital of Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430030, Hubei Province, China
2. Institute of Liver and Gastrointestinal Diseases, Tongji Hospital of Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430030, Hubei Province, China
*These authors contributed equally to this work.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Li D, Ding X, Xie M, Huang Z, Han P, Tian D, Xia L. CAMSAP2-mediated noncentrosomal microtubule acetylation drives hepatocellular carcinoma metastasis. Theranostics 2020; 10(8):3749-3766. doi:10.7150/thno.42596. Available from

File import instruction


Rationale: Emerging evidence suggests that noncentrosomal microtubules play an essential role in intracellular transport, cell polarity and cell motility. Whether these noncentrosomal microtubules exist or function in cancer cells remains unclear.

Methods: The expression and prognostic values of CAMSAP2 and its functional targets were analyzed by immunohistochemistry in two independent HCC cohorts. Immunofluorescence and co-immunoprecipitation were used for detection of CAMSAP2-decorated noncentrosomal microtubule. Chromatin immunoprecipitation and luciferase report assays were used to determine the c-Jun binding sites in HDAC6 promoter region. In vitro migration and invasion assays and in vivo orthotopic metastatic models were utilized to investigate invasion and metastasis.

Results: We reported a microtubule minus‑end‑targeting protein, CAMSAP2, is significantly upregulated in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and correlated with poor prognosis. CAMSAP2 was specifically deposited on microtubule minus ends to serve as a “seed” for noncentrosomal microtubule outgrowth in HCC cells. Upon depletion of CAMSAP2, the noncentrosomal microtubule array was transformed into a completely radial centrosomal pattern, thereby impairing HCC cell migration and invasion. We further demonstrated that CAMSAP2 cooperates with EB1 to regulate microtubule dynamics and invasive cell migration via Trio/Rac1 signaling. Strikingly, both immunofluorescence staining and western blotting showed that CAMSAP2 depletion strongly reduced the abundance of acetylated microtubules in HCC cells. Our results revealed that HDAC6, a promising target for cancer therapy, was inversely downregulated in HCC and uniquely endowed with tumor-suppressive activity by regulation CAMSAP2-mediated microtubule acetylation. Mechanistically, CAMSAP2 activates c-Jun to induce transrepression of HDAC6 through Trio-dependent Rac1/JNK pathway. Furthermore, NSC23766, a Rac1-specific inhibitor significantly inhibited CAMSAP2-mediated HCC invasion and metastasis.

Conclusions: CAMSAP2 is functionally, mechanistically, and clinically oncogenic in HCC. Targeting CAMSAP2-mediated noncentrosomal microtubule acetylation may provide new therapeutic strategies for HCC metastasis.

Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma, noncentrosomal microtubule, CAMSAP2, acetylation, HDAC6