Glutathione S-transferase A2 promotes hepatocellular carcinoma recurrence after liver transplantation through modulating reactive oxygen species metabolism

Cell Death Discov. 2021 Jul 21;7(1):188. doi: 10.1038/s41420-021-00569-y.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) recurrence after liver transplantation remains a significant clinical problem. Ischemia-reperfusion injury (IRI) occurred inevitably at the early phase after liver transplantation (LT) spawns a significant risk of HCC recurrence. However, their linkage and IRI-derived risk factors for HCC recurrence remain exclusive. Understanding the mechanism of post-transplantation hepatic injury could provide new strategies to prevent the later event of HCC recurrence. We demonstrated that glutathione S-transferase A2 (GSTA2) expression was significantly associated with early phase hepatic and systemic injury and ROS level after liver transplantation. Early phase circulating GSTA2 (EPCGSTA2) protein was a significant predictor of HCC recurrence and survival. Heterogeneous single nucleotide polymorphism at G335C of GSTA2 was significantly associated with poor survival of HCC recipients. Enhancement of GSTA2 could protect HCC cells against H2O2-induced cell death by compensating for the elevated ROS stress. We also demonstrated that GSTA2 played crucial roles in regulating the ROS-associated JNK and AKT signaling pathways and ROS metabolism in HCCs in responding to a dynamic ROS environment. Functionally, endogenous or exogenous upregulation of GSTA2 could promote HCC growth and invasion through activating the epithelial-mesenchymal-transition process. Targeted inhibition of GSTA2 could suppress HCC growth and metastasis. In conclusion, GSTA2 could be a novel prognostic and therapeutic target to combat HCC recurrence after liver transplantation.