Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC) is an aggressive cancer associated with the bile ducts within the liver. These tumors are characterized by frequent gain-of-function mutations in the isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 and 2 (IDH1 and IDH2) genes-that are also common in subsets of neural, haematopoietic and bone tumors, but rare or absent in the other types of gastrointestinal malignancy. Mutant IDH acts through a novel mechanism of oncogenesis, producing high levels of the metabolite 2-hydroxyglutarate, which interferes with the function of α-ketoglutarate-dependent enzymes that regulate diverse cellular processes including histone demethylation and DNA modification. Recently, we used in vitro stem cell systems and genetically engineered mouse models (GEMMs) to demonstrate that mutant IDH promotes ICC formation by blocking hepatocyte differentiation and increasing pools of hepatic progenitors that are susceptible to additional oncogenic hits leading to ICC. We found that silencing of HNF4A-encoding a master transcriptional regulator of hepatocyte identity and quiescence-was critical to mutant IDH-mediated inhibition of liver differentiation. In line with these findings, human ICC with IDH mutations are characterized by a hepatic progenitor cell transcriptional signature suggesting that they are a distinct ICC subtype as compared to IDH wild type tumors. The role of mutant IDH in controlling hepatic differentiation state suggests the potential of newly developed inhibitors of the mutant enzyme as a form of differentiation therapy in a solid tumor.
Keywords: IDH1; IDH2; Isocitrate Dehydrogenase; cholangiocarcinoma; mouse models.