Aberrant angiogenesis in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is associated with tumor growth, progression, and local or distant metastasis. Hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) is a transcription factor that plays a major role in regulating angiogenesis during adaptation of tumor cells to nutrient-deprived microenvironments. Genetic defects in Krebs cycle enzymes, such as succinate dehydrogenase and fumarate hydratase, result in elevation of oncometabolites succinate and fumarate, thereby increasing HIF-1α stability and activating the HIF-1α signaling pathway. However, whether other metabolites regulate HIF-1α stability remains unclear. Here, we reported that deficiency of the enzyme in phenylalanine/tyrosine catabolism, glutathione S-transferase zeta 1 (GSTZ1), led to accumulation of succinylacetone, which was structurally similar to α-ketoglutarate. Succinylacetone competed with α-ketoglutarate for prolyl hydroxylase domain 2 (PHD2) binding and inhibited PHD2 activity, preventing hydroxylation of HIF-1α, thus resulting in its stabilization and consequent expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Our findings suggest that GSTZ1 may serve as an important tumor suppressor owing to its ability to inhibit the HIF-1α/VEGFA axis in HCC. Moreover, we explored the therapeutic potential of HIF-1α inhibitor combined with anti–programmed cell death ligand 1 therapy to effectively prevent HCC angiogenesis and tumorigenesis in Gstz1-knockout mice, suggesting a potentially actionable strategy for HCC treatment.
Huating Luo, Qiujie Wang, Fan Yang, Rui Liu, Qingzhu Gao, Bin Cheng, Xue Lin, Luyi Huang, Chang Chen, Jin Xiang, Kai Wang, Bo Qin, Ni Tang