Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) accounts for the majority of primary liver cancers, which is the second most lethal tumor worldwide. Epigenetic deregulation is a common trait observed in HCC. Recently, increasing evidence suggested that the G9a histone methyltransferase might be a novel regulator of HCC development. However, several HCC cell lines were recently noted to have HeLa cell contamination or to have been derived from non-hepatocellular origin, suggesting that functional validation of G9a in proper HCC models is still required. Herein, we first confirmed that higher G9a messenger RNA and protein expression levels were correlated with poor overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS) rates of HCC patients from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) dataset and our recruited HCC cohort. In an in vitro functional evaluation of HCC cells, HCC36 (hepatitis B virus-positive (HBV+) and Mahlavu (HBV−)) cells showed that G9a participated in promoting cell proliferation, colony formation, and migration/invasion abilities. Moreover, or-thotopic inoculation of G9a-depleted Mahlavu cells in NOD-SCID mice also resulted in a significantly decreased tumor burden compared to the control group. Furthermore, after surveying mi-croRNA (miRNA; miR) prediction databases, we identified the liver-specific miR-122 as a G9a-tar-geting miRNA. In various HCC cell lines, we observed that miR-122 expression levels tended to be inversely correlated to G9a expression levels. In clinical HCC specimens, a significant inverse cor-relation of miR-122 and G9a mRNA expression levels was also observed. Functionally, the colony formation and invasive ability were attenuated in miR-122-overexpressing HCC cells. HCC patients with low miR-122 and high G9a expression levels had the worst OS and DFS rates compared to others. Together, our results confirmed the importance of altered G9a expression during HCC progression and discovered that a novel liver-specific miR-122-G9a regulatory axis exists.
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