The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), a major chemical sensor, is thought to play a role in various biological contexts, including cell cycle regulation and tumorigenesis. However, its regulatory mechanisms remain unclear. We propose herein a novel mechanism through which AHR promotes tumorigenesis by targeting expression of the oncogene intestine-specific homeobox (ISX) in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Compared to paired tumor-adjacent tissues and non-HCC tumors, HCCs exhibited an increased and hierarchical pattern of AHR expression. Patients exhibiting high AHR expression had a significantly shorter survival duration, compared to those with low and medium expression. Functionally, AHR was found to target the newly discovered proto-oncogene, ISX, resulting in the increased expression of this gene and its downstream targets, CCND1 and E2F1. Ablation of AHR or ISX in hepatoma cells suppressed cell growth, whereas overexpression promoted cell proliferation and led to enhanced tumorigenic activity in vitro and in vivo. These results provide evidence to support a critical role for the AHR/ISX axis in HCC tumorigenesis and suggest its potential utility as a new therapeutic and prognostic target for HCC.
- aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR)
- hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
- intestine-specific homeobox (ISX)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research