The persistence of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) is a risk factor for the development of steatosis-associated tumors in chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, yet little is known about the metabolic link with this factor. We correlated HBV-related pathogenesis in genetically engineered mice and human carriers with metabolic proteomics and lipogenic gene expression profiles. The immunohistochemistry showed that the promyelocytic leukemia protein (PML, a tumor suppressor involved in genome maintenance and fatty acid oxidation), being inversely influenced by the dynamic HBsAg levels from acute phase to seroclearance, appeared as a lipo-metabolic switch linking HBsAg-induced steatosis (lipogenesis) to HBsAg-lost fat-burning hepatocarcinogenesis (lipolysis). Knockdown of PML in HBsAg-transgenic mice predisposed to obesity and drove early steatosis-specific liver tumorigenesis. Proteome analysis revealed that the signaling pathways corresponding to energy metabolism and its regulators were frequently altered by suppression or depletion of PML in the HBsAg-transgenic mice, mainly including oxidative phosphorylation and fatty acid metabolism. Expression profiling further identified upregulation of stearoyl-CoA desaturase 1 (Scd1) and epigenetic methylation of NDUFA13 in the mitochondrial respiratory chain and the cell cycle inhibitor CDKN1c in concordance to the increased severity of lipodystrophy and neoplasia in the livers of HBsAg-transgenic mice with PML insufficiency. The defect in lipolysis in PML-deficient HBsAg-transgenic mice made the HBsAg-induced adipose-like liver tumors vulnerable to synthetic lethality from toxic saturated fat accumulation with a Scd1 inhibitor. Our findings provide mechanistic insights into the evolution of steatosis-associated hepatic tumors driven by reciprocal interactions of HBsAg and PML, and a potential utility of lipid metabolic reprogramming as a treatment target.
Chung, Y. L., & Wu, M. L. (2018). The Role of Promyelocytic Leukemia Protein in Steatosis-Associated Hepatic Tumors Related to Chronic Hepatitis B virus Infection. Translational Oncology, 11(3), 743–754. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tranon.2018.03.013