Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the primary liver malignancies with a poor prognosis. Glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase 2 (GOT2) is a highly tissue-specific gene in the liver, but the roles GOT2 plays in the progression of HCC remain unclear. Here, we report that GOT2 is downregulated in HCC tumor tissues and that low expression of GOT2 is associated with advanced progression and poor prognosis. In HCC cells, knockdown of GOT2 promoted proliferation, migration, and invasion. In mouse models of HCC, loss of GOT2 promoted tumor growth as well as hematogenous and intrahepatic metastasis. Mechanistically, silencing of GOT2 enhanced glutaminolysis, nucleotide synthesis, and glutathione synthesis by reprogramming glutamine metabolism to support the cellular antioxidant system, which activated the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway to contribute to HCC progression. Furthermore, HCC with low expression of GOT2 was highly dependent on glutamine metabolism and sensitive to the glutaminase inhibitor CB-839 in vitro and in vivo. Overall, GOT2 is involved in glutamine metabolic reprogramming to promote HCC progression and may serve as a therapeutic and diagnostic target for HCC.
Significance: Altered glutamine metabolism induced by GOT2 loss supports HCC growth and metastasis but confers a targetable vulnerability to glutaminase inhibitors.
©2022 American Association for Cancer Research.