INOS promotes CD24+CD133+ liver cancer stem cell phenotype through a TACE/ADAM17-dependent Notch signaling pathway

Ronghua Wang, Yawen Li, Allan Tsung, Hai Huang, Qiang Du, Muqing Yang, Meihong Deng, Si Xiong, Xiju Wang, Liyong Zhang, David A. Geller, Bin Cheng*, Timothy R. Billiar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


The inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) is associated with more aggressive solid tumors, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Notch signaling in cancer stem cells promotes cancer progression and requires Notch cleavage by ADAM (a disintegrin and metalloprotease) proteases. We hypothesized that iNOS/NO promotes Notch1 activation through TACE/ADAM17 activation in liver cancer stem cells (LCSCs), leading to a more aggressive cancer phenotype. Expression of the stem cell markers CD24 and CD133 in the tumors of patients with HCC was associated with greater iNOS expression and worse outcomes. The expression of iNOS in CD24+CD133+ LCSCs, but not CD24-CD133- LCSCs, promoted Notch1 signaling and stemness characteristics in vitro and in vivo, as well as accelerating HCC initiation and tumor formation in the mouse xenograft tumor model. INOS/NO led to Notch1 signaling through a pathway involving the soluble guanylyl cyclase/cGMP/PKG-dependent activation of TACE/ADAM17 and up-regulation of iRhom2 in LCSCs. In patients with HCC, higher TACE/ADAM17 expression and Notch1 activation correlated with poor prognosis. These findings link iNOS to Notch1 signaling in CD24+CD133+ LCSCs through the activation of TACE/ADAM17 and identify a mechanism for how iNOS contributes to progression of CD24+CD133+ HCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E10127-E10136
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number43
StatePublished - 23 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer stem cells
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Nitric oxide
  • Notch


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