Histone deacetylase 8 (HDAC8), a unique member of class I histone deacetylases, shows remarkable correlation with advanced disease stage and multiple malignant tumors However, little is known about the contribution of HDAC8 to the tumorigenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The present study investigated the expression of HDAC8 regulated by the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) in HCC cell lines and tissues, and the roles of HDAC8 overexpression in cell proliferation, including potentially underlying mechanisms. We assessed the correlation between the clinic-pathological parameters and the expression of AHR and HDAC8. Further, we analyzed the AHR siRNA transfection and HDAC8 inhibitors to explore the functions of HDAC8 in HCC progression in vitro and in vivo. In a panel of 289 HCC patients, HDAC8 was shown to be highly correlated with AHR expression at both mRNA and protein levels. HCC patients with high AHR expression showed a shorter survival time than that with low AHR expression. We then found that the expression of both AHR and HDAC8 was significantly upregulated in both HCC cell lines and tumor tissues compared to human normal hepatocytes and matched non-tumor tissues. Furthermore, HDAC8 inhibition remarkably inhibited hepatoma cell proliferation and transformation activity via upregulation of RB1 in vitro and in vivo. Our data revealed an important role of the AHR-HDAC8 axis in promoting HCC tumorigenesis, thus identifying HDAC8 as a potential therapeutic target for HCC treatment.
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