As a conserved molecular chaperone, heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) maintains the stability and homeostasis of oncoproteins and helps cancer cells survive. DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs) plays a pivotal role in the non-homologous end joining pathway for DNA double-strand breaks (DSB) repair. Tumor cells contain higher levels of DNA-PKcs to survive by the hostile tumor microenvironment and various antitumor therapies. Here, we showed that increased levels of Hsp90α, Hsp90β, and DNA-PKcs correlated with a poor overall survival in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). We revealed that Hsp90 N-terminal domain and C-terminal domain have different effects on DNA-PKcs protein and mRNA levels. The stability of DNA-PKcs depended on Hsp90α N-terminal nucleotide binding domain. Transcription factor SP1 regulates the transcription of PRKDC (gene name of DNA-PKcs) and is a client protein of Hsp90. Inhibition of Hsp90 N-terminal by STA9090 decreased the location of Hsp90α in nucleus, Hsp90α-SP1 interaction, SP1 level, and the binding of Hsp90α/SP1 at the proximal promoter region of PRKDC. Because hyperthermia induces DSBs with increases level of DNA-PKcs, combined STA9090 treatment with hyperthermia effectively delayed the tumor growth and significantly decreased DNA-PKcs levels in xenografts model. Consistently, inhibition of Hsp90 increased the number of heat shock–induced γ-H2AX foci and delayed the repair of DSBs. Altogether, our results suggest that Hsp90 inhibitor STA9090 decreases DNA-PKcs protein stability and PRKDC mRNA level, which provide a theoretical basis for the promising combination therapy of hyperthermia and Hsp90 inhibitor in HCC.

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