Liver cancer is one of the most lethal malignancies with very poor prognosis once diagnosed. The most common form of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The WW domain-containing oxidoreductase (WWOX) is a large gene that is often perturbed in a wide variety of tumors, including HCC. WWOX has been shown to act as a tumor suppressor modulating cellular metabolism via regulating hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) levels and function. Given that WWOX is commonly inactivated in HCC, we set to determine whether specific targeted deletion of murine Wwox affects liver biology and HCC development. WWOX liver-specific knockout mice (Wwox ΔHep ) showed more potent liver regeneration potential and enhanced proliferation as compared with their control littermates. Moreover, WWOX deficiency in hepatocytes combined with diethylnitrosamine treatment increased the tumor burden, which was associated with increased HIF1α levels and target gene transactivation. Inhibition of HIF1α by systemic treatment with digoxin significantly delayed HCC formation. Our work suggests that WWOX inactivation has a central role in promoting HCC through rewiring of cellular metabolism and modulating proliferation.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We are grateful to Chaim Preiser, Ben Cohen, and Daniel Steinberg for technical help with mice work. The Aqeilan laboratory is supported by Worldwide Cancer Research grant (grant agreement No. 14-1095) and European Research Council (ERC)-Consolidator Grant under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement No. 682118).
© 2018 The Author(s).