Abstract

Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) regulate oxygen sensing and expression of genes involved in angiogenesis and erythropoiesis. Polycythemia has been observed in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), but the underlying molecular basis remains unknown. Liver tissues from 302 HCC patients, including 104 with polycythemia, were sequenced for HIF2A mutations. A germline HIF2A mutation was detected in one HCC patient with concurrent polycythemia. Three additional family members carried this mutation, but none exhibited polycythemia or were diagnosed with HCC. The gain-of-function mutation resulted in a HIF-2α protein that was transcribed normally but resistant to degradation. HIF-2α target genes EDN1, EPO, GNA14, and VEGF were significantly upregulated in the tumor bed but not in the surrounding liver tissue. Polycythemia resolved upon total resection of the tumor tissue. This newly described HIF2A mutation may promote HCC oncogenesis.