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Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences


Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) has a poor prognosis due to widespread intrahepatic spread. Aspartate β-hydroxylase (ASPH) is a transmembrane protein and catalyzes the hydroxylation of aspartyl and asparaginyl residues in calcium binding epidermal growth factor (cbEGF)-like domains of various proteins, including Notch receptors and ligands. ASPH is highly overexpressed (>95%) in human CCA tumors. We explored the molecular mechanisms by which ASPH mediated the CCA malignant phenotype and evaluated the potential of ASPH as a therapeutic target for CCA. The importance of expression and enzymatic activity of ASPH for CCA growth and progression was examined using shRNA “knockdown” and a mutant construct that reduced its catalytic activity. Second generation small molecule inhibitors (SMIs) of β-hydroxylase activity were developed and used to target ASPH in vitro and in vivo. Subcutaneous and intrahepatic xenograft rodent models were employed to determine anti-tumor effects on CCA growth and development. It was found that the enzymatic activity of ASPH was critical for mediating CCA progression, as well as inhibiting apoptosis. Mechanistically, ASPH overexpression promoted Notch activation and modulated CCA progression through a Notch1-dependent cyclin D1 pathway. Targeting ASPH with shRNAs or a SMI significantly suppressed CCA growth in vivo.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.