Phospholipase C epsilon 1 (PLCE1) is a well-established susceptibility gene for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). Identification of the underlying mechanism(s) regulated by PLCE1 could lead to a better understanding of ESCC tumorigenesis. In this study, we found that PLCE1 enhances tumor progression by regulating the replicative helicase MCM7 via two pathways. PLCE1 activated PKCα-mediated phosphorylation of E2F1, which led to the transcriptional activation of MCM7 and miR-106b-5p. The increased expression of miR-106b-5p, located in intron 13 of MCM7, suppressed autophagy and apoptosis by targeting Beclin-1 and RBL2, respectively. Moreover, MCM7 cooperated with the miR-106b-25 cluster to promote PLCE1-dependent cell-cycle progression both in vivo and in vitro. In addition, PLCE1 potentiated the phosphorylation of MCM7 at six threonine residues by the atypical kinase RIOK2, which promoted MCM complex assembly, chromatin loading, and cell-cycle progression. Inhibition of PLCE1 or RIOK2 hampered MCM7-mediated DNA replication, resulting in G1–S arrest. Furthermore, MCM7 overexpression in ESCC correlated with poor patient survival. Overall, these findings provide insights into the role of PLCE1 as an oncogenic regulator, a promising prognostic biomarker, and a potential therapeutic target in ESCC.

Significance:

PLCE1 promotes tumor progression in ESCC by activating PKCα-mediated phosphorylation of E2F1 to upregulate MCM7 and miR-106b-5p expression and by potentiating MCM7 phosphorylation by RIOK2.

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