Emerging role of Hpo signaling and YAP in hepatocellular carcinoma
Vicente Valero III,1 Timothy M Pawlik,1 Robert A Anders2
1Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology, 2Department of Pathology, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
Abstract: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the sixth most common cancer and the third most common cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide. Due to the poor prognosis and limited therapeutic options, there is great interest in further understanding better the molecular underpinnings and potential molecular targets associated with HCC. The Hippo (Hpo) signaling pathway and YAP, its principal downstream effector, represent an innovative area of research in HCC. Pioneered in Drosophila melanogaster, the Hpo cascade controls tissue homeostasis including organ size, cell proliferation, apoptosis, as well as cell-cycle regulation and differentiation. This conserved kinase cascade in mammals depends on central control by the tumor suppressor mammalian sterile 20-like kinase 1/2 (Mst1/2). The Mst1/2 commences the downstream kinase cascade, ultimately activating the oncoprotein YAP and allowing its physical association with downstream targets to enhance the gene expression signatures that are involved in proliferation and survival. Alterations in YAP expression and defective regulation of other key Hpo pathway members, such as Mst1/2, Salvador, neurofibromatosis and Mer (Nf2/mer), large tumor suppressor homolog 1/2 (Lats1/2), and Mps one binder kinase activator-like 1A and 1B (Mob1) drive carcinogenesis in animal models. The dysregulation of the Hpo pathway – resulting in an unchecked activation of YAP – culminates in the development of a broad range of human tumor types, including HCC. The abrogation of Mst1/2-mediated YAP phosphorylation permits YAP entry into the nucleus in murine models and functions similarly in human HCCs. Chemoresistance mechanisms displayed by HCC tumors occur in a YAP-dependent manner. The HCC specimens exhibit YAP overexpression, and YAP serves as an independent prognostic marker for disease-free survival and overall survival in patients with HCC. Recently, the small molecule inhibitor, verteporfin has been shown to attenuate YAP activity in murine models, perhaps offering a novel therapeutic approach for patients with advanced HCC.
Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma, yes-associated-protein, Hippo signaling, liver cancer, hepatic malignancy
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