Publicaciones científicas

Identification and experimental validation of druggable epigenetic targets in hepatoblastoma

24-oct-2023 | Revista: Journal of Hepatology

Alex Clavería-Cabello 1, Jose Maria Herranz 2, Maria Ujue Latasa 2, Maria Arechederra 3, Iker Uriarte 2, Antonio Pineda-Lucena 4, Felipe Prosper 5, Pedro Berraondo 6, Cristina Alonso 7, Bruno Sangro 8, Jose Juan García Marin 9, Maria Luz Martinez-Chantar 10, Sergio Ciordia 11, Fernando José Corrales 12, Paola Francalanci 13, Rita Alaggio 14, Jessica Zucman-Rossi 15, Emilie Indersie 16, Stefano Cairo 17, Montserrat Domingo-Sàbat 18, Laura Zanatto 19, Pau Sancho-Bru 20, Carolina Armengol 21, Carmen Berasain 3, Maite García Fernandez-Barrena 22, Matias Antonio Avila 23


Background & aims: Hepatoblastoma (HB) is the most frequent childhood liver cancer. Patients with aggressive tumors have limited therapeutic options; therefore, a better understanding of HB pathogenesis is needed to improve treatment. HBs have a very low mutational burden; however, epigenetic alterations are increasingly recognized. We aimed to identify epigenetic regulators consistently dysregulated in HB and to evaluate the therapeutic efficacy of their targeting in clinically relevant models.

Methods: We performed a comprehensive transcriptomic analysis of 180 epigenetic genes. Data from fetal, pediatric, adult, peritumoral (n = 72) and tumoral (n = 91) tissues were integrated. Selected epigenetic drugs were tested in HB cells. The most relevant epigenetic target identified was validated in primary HB cells, HB organoids, a patient-derived xenograft model, and a genetic mouse model. Transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic mechanistic analyses were performed.

Results: Altered expression of genes regulating DNA methylation and histone modifications was consistently observed in association with molecular and clinical features of poor prognosis. The histone methyltransferase G9a was markedly upregulated in tumors with epigenetic and transcriptomic traits of increased malignancy. Pharmacological targeting of G9a significantly inhibited growth of HB cells, organoids and patient-derived xenografts. Development of HB induced by oncogenic forms of β-catenin and YAP1 was ablated in mice with hepatocyte-specific deletion of G9a. We observed that HBs undergo significant transcriptional rewiring in genes involved in amino acid metabolism and ribosomal biogenesis. G9a inhibition counteracted these pro-tumorigenic adaptations. Mechanistically, G9a targeting potently repressed the expression of c-MYC and ATF4, master regulators of HB metabolic reprogramming.

Conclusions: HBs display a profound dysregulation of the epigenetic machinery. Pharmacological targeting of key epigenetic effectors exposes metabolic vulnerabilities that can be leveraged to improve the treatment of these patients.

Impact and implications: In spite of recent advances in the management of hepatoblastoma (HB), treatment resistance and drug toxicity are still major concerns. This systematic study reveals the remarkable dysregulation in the expression of epigenetic genes in HB tissues. Through pharmacological and genetic experimental approaches, we demonstrate that the histone-lysine-methyltransferase G9a is an excellent drug target in HB, which can also be harnessed to enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy. Furthermore, our study highlights the profound pro-tumorigenic metabolic rewiring of HB cells orchestrated by G9a in coordination with the c-MYC oncogene. From a broader perspective, our findings suggest that anti-G9a therapies may also be effective in other c-MYC-dependent tumors.

Keywords: Epigenetics; G9a; Hepatoblastoma; Metabolic reprogramming; c-MYC.

CITA DEL ARTÍCULO J Hepatol. 2023 Oct;79(4):989-1005. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2023.05.031. Epub 2023 Jun 10.