It is well established that increased liver cancer incidence is strongly associated with epigenetic silencing of tumor suppressor genes; the latter is contributed by the environmental exposure to arsenic. Pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 (PDK4) is a mitochondrial protein that regulates the TCA cycle. However, the epigenetic mechanisms mediated by arsenic to control PDK4 expression remain elusive. In the present study, we showed that histone methyltransferase G9a- and Suv39H-mediated histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9) methylations contributed to PDK4 silencing in hepatic cells. The PDK4 expression was induced by G9a inhibitor BRD4770 (BRD) and Suv39H inhibitor Chaetocin (CHA). In contrast, arsenic exposure decreased PDK4 expression by inducing G9a and increasing H3K9 di- and tri-methylations levels (H3K9me2/3). In addition, arsenic exposure antagonizes the effect of BRD by enhancing the enrichment of H3K9me2/3 in the PKD4 promoter. Moreover, knockdown of G9a using siRNA induced PDK4 expression in HCC cells. Furthermore, arsenic decreased hepatic PDK4 expression as well as diminished the induction of PDK4 by BRD in mouse liver and hepatocytes. Overall, the results suggest that arsenic causes aberrant repressive histone modification to silence PDK4 in both HCC cells and in mouse liver.Graphical abstract
Schematic showing arsenic-mediated epigenetic pathway that inhibits PDK4 expression. (A) BRD induces PDK4 expression by decreasing G9a protein and histone H3K9me2 and H3K9me3 levels as well as diminishing their recruitment to the PDK4 promoter. (B) Arsenic counteracts the effect of BRD by increasing histone H3K9me2 and H3K9me3 levels as well as enhancing their enrichment to the PDK4 promoter.