Arid1a Regulates Response to Anti-Angiogenic Therapy in Advanced Hepatocellular Carcinoma

J Hepatol. 2018 Mar;68(3):465-475. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2017.10.028. Epub 2017 Nov 4.


Background & aims: AT-rich interaction domain 1a (Arid1a), a component of the chromatin remodeling complex, has emerged as a tumor suppressor gene. It is frequently mutated in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, it remains unknown how Arid1a suppresses HCC development and whether Arid1a deficiency could be exploited for therapy, we aimed to explore these questions.

Methods: The expression of Arid1a in human and mouse HCCs was determined by immunohistochemical (IHC) staining. Gene expression was determined by quantitative PCR, ELISA or western blotting. Arid1a knockdown HCC cell lines were established by lentiviral-based shRNA. Tumor angiogenesis was quantified based on vessel density. The regulation of angiopoietin (Ang2) expression by Arid1a was identified by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay. The tumor promoting function of Arid1a loss was studied with a xenograft model in nude mice and diethylnitrosamine (DEN)-induced HCC in Arid1a conditional knockout mice. The therapeutic values of Ang2 antibody and sorafenib treatment were evaluated both in vitro and in vivo.

Results: We demonstrate that Arid1a deficiency, occurring in advanced human HCCs, is associated with increased vessel density. Mechanistically, loss of Arid1a causes aberrant histone H3K27ac deposition at the angiopoietin-2 (Ang2) enhancer and promoter, which eventually leads to ectopic expression of Ang2 and promotes HCC development. Ang2 blockade in Arid1a-deficient HCCs significantly reduces vessel density and tumor progression. Importantly, sorafenib treatment, which suppresses H3K27 acetylation and Ang2 expression, profoundly halts the progression of Arid1a-deficient HCCs.

Conclusions: Arid1a-deficiency activates Ang2-dependent angiogenesis and promotes HCC progression. Loss of Arid1a in HCCs confers sensitivity to Ang2 blockade and sorafenib treatment.

Lay summary: AT-rich interaction domain 1a (Arid1a), is a tumor suppressor gene. Arid1a-deficiency promotes Ang2-dependent angiogenesis leading to hepatocellular carcinoma progression. Arid1a-deficiency also sensitizes tumors to Ang2 blockade by sorafenib treatment.

Keywords: Angiogenesis; Angiopoietin-2; Chromatin remodeling; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Sorafenib.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Angiopoietin-2 / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / deficiency
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Disease Progression
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Liver Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / drug therapy*
  • Nuclear Proteins* / deficiency
  • Nuclear Proteins* / metabolism
  • Sorafenib / pharmacology*
  • Transcription Factors* / deficiency
  • Transcription Factors* / metabolism


  • ARID1A protein, human
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Angiopoietin-2
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Arid1a protein, mouse
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Sorafenib