A Therapeutically Targetable TAZ-TEAD2 Pathway Drives the Growth of Hepatocellular Carcinoma via ANLN and KIF23

Yoshinobu Saito, Dingzi Yin, Naoto Kubota, Xiaobo Wang, Aveline Filliol, Helen Remotti, Ajay Nair, Ladan Fazlollahi, Yujin Hoshida, Ira Tabas, Kirk J. Wangensteen, Robert F. Schwabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Despite recent progress, long-term survival remains low for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The most effective HCC therapies target the tumor immune microenvironment (TIME), and there are almost no therapies that directly target tumor cells. Here, we investigated the regulation and function of tumor cell-expressed Yes-associated protein (YAP) and transcriptional coactivator with PDZ-binding motif (TAZ) in HCC. Methods: HCC was induced in mice by Sleeping Beauty-mediated expression of MET, CTNNB1-S45Y, or TAZ-S89A, or by diethylnitrosamine plus CCl4. Hepatocellular TAZ and YAP were deleted in floxed mice via adeno-associated virus serotype 8-mediated expression of Cre. TAZ target genes were identified from RNA sequencing, confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipitation, and evaluated in a clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats interference (CRISPRi) screen. TEA domain transcription factors (TEADs), anillin (ANLN), Kif23, and programmed cell death protein ligand 1 were knocked down by guide RNAs in dead clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats–associated protein 9 (dCas9) knock-in mice. Results: YAP and TAZ were up-regulated in murine and human HCC, but only deletion of TAZ consistently decreased HCC growth and mortality. Conversely, overexpression of activated TAZ was sufficient to trigger HCC. TAZ expression in HCC was regulated by cholesterol synthesis, as demonstrated by pharmacologic or genetic inhibition of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl- coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR), farnesyl pyrophosphate synthase, farnesyl-diphosphate farnesyltransferase 1 (FDFT1), or sterol regulatory element-binding protein 2 (SREBP2). TAZ- and MET/CTNNB1-S45Y–driven HCC required the expression of TEAD2 and, to a lesser extent, TEAD4. Accordingly, TEAD2 displayed the most profound effect on survival in patients with HCC. TAZ and TEAD2 promoted HCC via increased tumor cell proliferation, mediated by TAZ target genes ANLN and kinesin family member 23 (KIF23). Therapeutic targeting of HCC, using pan-TEAD inhibitors or the combination of a statin with sorafenib or anti–programmed cell death protein 1, decreased tumor growth. Conclusions: Our results suggest the cholesterol-TAZ-TEAD2-ANLN/KIF23 pathway as a mediator of HCC proliferation and tumor cell-intrinsic therapeutic target that could be synergistically combined with TIME-targeted therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1279-1292
Number of pages14
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Anillin
  • Combination Therapy
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibition
  • Kinesin Family Member 23
  • Liver Cancer
  • Statin
  • Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor
  • VT104
  • VT107


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