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J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2019 Oct 30;38(1):438. doi: 10.1186/s13046-019-1459-6.

GSTZ1 deficiency promotes hepatocellular carcinoma proliferation via activation of the KEAP1/NRF2 pathway.

Author information

1
Key Laboratory of Molecular Biology for Infectious Diseases (Ministry of Education), Institute for Viral Hepatitis, Department of Infectious Diseases, The Second Affiliated Hospital, Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China.
2
Department of Blood Transfusion, The Second Affiliated Hospital, Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China.
3
Institute of Life Sciences, Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China.
4
Key Laboratory of Molecular Biology for Infectious Diseases (Ministry of Education), Institute for Viral Hepatitis, Department of Infectious Diseases, The Second Affiliated Hospital, Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China. wangkai@cqmu.edu.cn.
5
Key Laboratory of Molecular Biology for Infectious Diseases (Ministry of Education), Institute for Viral Hepatitis, Department of Infectious Diseases, The Second Affiliated Hospital, Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China. nitang@cqmu.edu.cn.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Glutathione S-transferase zeta 1 (GSTZ1) is the penultimate enzyme in phenylalanine/tyrosine catabolism. GSTZ1 is dysregulated in cancers; however, its role in tumorigenesis and progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is largely unknown. We aimed to assess the role of GSTZ1 in HCC and to reveal the underlying mechanisms, which may contribute to finding a potential therapeutic strategy against HCC.

METHODS:

We first analyzed GSTZ1 expression levels in paired human HCC and adjacent normal tissue specimens and the prognostic effect of GSTZ1 on HCC patients. Thereafter, we evaluated the role of GSTZ1 in aerobic glycolysis in HCC cells on the basis of the oxygen consumption rate (OCR) and extracellular acidification rate (ECAR). Furthermore, we assessed the effect of GSTZ1 on HCC proliferation, glutathione (GSH) concentration, levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2) signaling via gain- and loss- of GSTZ1 function in vitro. Moreover, we investigated the effect of GSTZ1 on diethylnitrosamine (DEN) and carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) induced hepatocarcinogenesis in a mouse model of HCC.

RESULTS:

GSTZ1 was downregulated in HCC, thus indicating a poor prognosis. GSTZ1 deficiency significantly promoted hepatoma cell proliferation and aerobic glycolysis in HCC cells. Moreover, loss of GSTZ1 function depleted GSH, increased ROS levels, and enhanced lipid peroxidation, thus activating the NRF2-mediated antioxidant pathway. Furthermore, Gstz1 knockout in mice promoted DEN/CCl4-induced hepatocarcinogenesis via activation of the NRF2 signaling pathway. Furthermore, the antioxidant agent N-acetylcysteine and NRF2 inhibitor brusatol effectively suppressed the growth of Gstz1-knockout HepG2 cells and HCC progression in Gstz1-/- mice.

CONCLUSIONS:

GSTZ1 serves as a tumor suppressor in HCC. GSH depletion caused by GSTZ1 deficiency elevates oxidative stress, thus constitutively activating the NRF2 antioxidant response pathway and accelerating HCC progression. Targeting the NRF2 signaling pathway may be a promising therapeutic approach for this subset of HCC.

KEYWORDS:

Glutathione; Glutathione S-transferase zeta 1; Hepatocellular carcinoma; KEAP1/NRF2 pathway; Oxidative stress

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