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Zhonghua Gan Zang Bing Za Zhi. 2013 Apr;21(4):279-84. doi: 10.3760/cma.j.issn.1007-3418.2013.04.010.

[Expression and roles of the epithelial mesenchymal transition markers E-cadherin and vimentin in hepatocellular carcinoma].

[Article in Chinese]

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  • 1Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, the Second Affiliated Hospital of Third Military Medical University, Chongqing 400037, China.



To determine the differential protein expressions of epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) markers E-cadherin and vimentin in hepatocellular carcinorma (HCC) and to investigate their correlation to the molecular mechanisms of metastasis to explore their potential utility as prognostic indicators of HCC.


Tumor tissues and patient-matched adjacent non-tumor tissues were collected from individuals diagnosed with HCC. E-cadherin and vimentin protein expressions in the tissue specimens were quantified by western blot with densitometry of fluorescence emission and comparatively analyzed to determine the associations with molecular and clinical features. The expressions of E-cadherin and vimentin, as well as the other EMT-related protein Twist, were also detected in the tissue specimens by immunohistochemistry. Statistical analyses were carried out by paired-samples t-test, Mann-Whitney test, and Spearman rank correlation analysis.


E-cadherin expression was significantly lower in tumor tissues (0.082 +/- 0.063 vs. adjacent non-tumor tissues: 0.226 +/- 0.215, t = -4.050, P less than 0.01), lower in patients with portal vein tumor thrombus (vs. non-thrombic HCC patients, P = 0.001), and correlated with TNM stage (III/IV > I/II, P = 0.003). Vimentin expression was significantly higher in tumor tissues (vs. adjacent non-tumor tissues, P = 0.002), negatively correlated with E-cadherin expression (t = -0.509, P = 0.004), and closely associated with some clinical parameters, such as portal vein tumor thrombus (P less than 0.01), TNM stage (P less than 0.01), and Milan criteria (P = 0.005). Immunohistochemistry showed that E-cadherin expression was very weak in tumors but very strong in the cell membranes of non-tumor tissues, and that vimentin and Twist expressions were strong in tumors but undetectable in non-tumor tissue.


Expression levels of the EMT markers E-cadherin and vimentin in HCC are related to clinical parameters, including portal vein tumor thrombus and TNM stage, and may represent useful prognostic markers of metastasis.

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