Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common lethal form of liver cancer. Apart from surgical removal and transplantation, other treatments have not yet been well established for patients with HCC. In this study, we found that carboxylesterase 1 (CES1) is expressed at various levels in HCC. We further revealed that blockage of CES1 by pharmacological and genetical approaches leads to altered lipid profiles that are directly linked to impaired mitochondrial function. Mechanistically, lipidomic analyses indicated that lipid signaling molecules, including polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which activate PPARα/γ, were dramatically reduced upon CES1 inhibition. As a result, the expression of SCD, a PPARα/γ target gene involved in tumor progression and chemoresistance, was significantly downregulated. Clinical analysis demonstrated a strong correlation between the protein levels of CES1 and SCD in HCC. Interference with lipid signaling by targeting the CES1-PPARα/γ-SCD axis sensitized HCC cells to cisplatin treatment. As a result, the growth of HCC xenograft tumors in NU/J mice was potently slowed by coadministration of cisplatin and CES1 inhibition. Our results, thus, suggest that CES1 is a promising therapeutic target for HCC treatment.


Gang Li, Xin Li, Iqbal Mahmud, Jazmin Ysaguirre, Baharan Fekry, Shuyue Wang, Bo Wei, Kristin L. Eckel-Mahan, Philip L. Lorenzi, Richard Lehner, Kai Sun


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