H4K20me3 upregulated by reactive oxygen species is associated with tumor progression and poor prognosis in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma


  • S. Phoyen
  • A. Sanpavat
  • C. Ma-on
  • U. Stein
  • N. Hirankarn
  • P. Tangkijvanich
  • D. Jindatip
  • P. Whongsiri
  • C. Boonla


  • Heliyon


  • Heliyon 9 (12): e22589


  • Epigenetic alteration by oxidative stress is vitally involved in carcinogenesis and cancer progression. Previously, we demonstrated that oxidative stress was increased in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients and associated with tumor aggressiveness. Herein, we immunohistochemically investigated whether histone methylation, specifically H4K20me3, was upregulated in human hepatic tissues obtained from HCC patients (n = 100). Also, we experimentally explored if the H4K20me3 was upregulated by reactive oxygen species (ROS) and contributed to tumor progression in HCC cell lines. We found that H4K20me3 level was increased in HCC tissues compared with the adjacent noncancerous liver tissues. H3K9me3 and H3K4me3 levels were also increased in HCC tissues. Cox regression analysis revealed that the elevated H4K20me3 level was associated with tumor recurrence and short survival in HCC patients. Experimentally, H2O2 provoked oxidative stress and induced H4K20me3 formation in HepG2 and Huh7 cells. Transcript expression of histone methyltransferase Suv420h2 (for H4K20me3), Suv39h1 (for H3K9me3), and Smyd3 (for H3K4me3) were upregulated in H2O2-treated HCC cells. H2O2 also induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in HCC cells, indicated by decreased E-cadherin but increased α-SMA and MMP-9 mRNA expression. Migration, invasion, and colony formation in HCC cells were markedly increased following the H2O2 exposure. Inhibition of H4K20me3 formation by A196 (a selective inhibitor of Suv420h2) attenuated EMT and reduced tumor migration in H2O2-treated HCC cells. In conclusion, we demonstrated for the first time that H4K20me3 level was increased in human HCC tissues, and it was independently associated with poor prognosis in HCC patients. ROS upregulated H4K20me3 formation, induced mRNA expression of EMT markers, and promoted tumor progression in human HCC cells. Inhibition of H4K20me3 formation reduced EMT and tumor aggressive phenotypes in ROS-treated HCC cells. Possibly, ROS-induced EMT and tumor progression in HCC cells was epigenetically mediated through an increased formation of repressive chromatin H4K20me3.