Epigenetic reactivation of tumor suppressor genes with CRISPRa technologies as precision therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma

Agustin Sgro, Joseph Cursons, Charlene Waryah, Eleanor A. Woodward, Momeneh Foroutan, Ruqian Lyu, George C.T. Yeoh, Peter J. Leedman, Pilar Blancafort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Epigenetic silencing of tumor suppressor genes (TSGs) is a key feature of oncogenesis in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Liver-targeted delivery of CRISPR-activation (CRISPRa) systems makes it possible to exploit chromatin plasticity, by reprogramming transcriptional dysregulation. Results: Using The Cancer Genome Atlas HCC data, we identify 12 putative TSGs with negative associations between promoter DNA methylation and transcript abundance, with limited genetic alterations. All HCC samples harbor at least one silenced TSG, suggesting that combining a specific panel of genomic targets could maximize efficacy, and potentially improve outcomes as a personalized treatment strategy for HCC patients. Unlike epigenetic modifying drugs lacking locus selectivity, CRISPRa systems enable potent and precise reactivation of at least 4 TSGs tailored to representative HCC lines. Concerted reactivation of HHIP, MT1M, PZP, and TTC36 in Hep3B cells inhibits multiple facets of HCC pathogenesis, such as cell viability, proliferation, and migration. Conclusions: By combining multiple effector domains, we demonstrate the utility of a CRISPRa toolbox of epigenetic effectors and gRNAs for patient-specific treatment of aggressive HCC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number73
Number of pages24
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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