Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most aggressive human cancers and the incidence is steadily increasing worldwide. The molecular mechanisms leading to the development of HCC consist of genetic and epigenetic aberrations, including changes in global and gene-specific DNA methylation and altered expression of several classes of non-coding RNAs. While changes in DNA methylation and microRNA expression during the development of HCC are well-studied, the role of aberrant post-translational histone modifications remains unexplored. Using a mouse Stelic Animal Model (STAM) of NASH-associated liver carcinogenesis, we have investigated alterations in hepatic histone modifications at steatotic (6 weeks), fibrotic (12 weeks), and full-fledged HCC (20 weeks) stages of the HCC development. NASH-related liver carcinogenesis was characterized by a progressive decrease in the levels of histone H4 lysine 20 trimethylation (H4K20me3) and histone H4 lysine 16 acetylation (H4K16ac), with the greatest decrease occurring in full-fledged tumors. Mechanistically, the deacetylation of H4K16ac was associated with nuclear protein 1 (Nupr1)-mediated inhibition of histone lysine acetyltransferase KAT8. In addition to a global loss of hepatic H4K16ac, there was a significant decrease of gene-specific H4K16ac, as indicated by a reduced level of H4K16ac in 16 out of 25 critical cancer-related genes. More importantly, the changes in the extent of gene-specific H4K16 deacetylation were positively correlated with the level of gene transcription (r = 0.965, p < 0.01). These results indicate that a reduction of global and gene-specific of H4K16ac is a key pathophysiological mechanism contributing to the development of NAFLD-derived HCC.

Citation Format: Kostiantyn Dreval, Aline de Conti, Orish Ebere Orisakwe, Frederick A. Beland, Igor P. Pogribny. Inhibition of gene expression during non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)-related hepatocarcinogenesis is mediated by histone H4 lysine 16 deacetylation [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2017; 2017 Apr 1-5; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2017;77(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 2407. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2017-2407