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Mutat Res. 2000 Apr;462(2-3):365-80.

Overexpression of p53 protein is not directly related to hepatitis B x protein expression and is associated with neoplastic progression in hepatocellular carcinomas rather than hepatic preneoplasia.

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Division of Cell Pathology, German Cancer Research Center, Im Neuenheimer Feld 280, 69120, Heidelberg, Germany.


p53 mutations and binding of p53 to hepatitis B virus (HBV) x protein (HBx) have been suggested as alternative mechanisms of development of hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) in man, both processes resulting in intracellular accumulation of the protein which is detectable by immunohistochemical approaches. We have examined p53 expression in 149 explanted human livers, including 39 cases infected with HBV and 35 bearing HCC. p53 was demonstrated immunohistochemically in 51% of HCC samples (18/35), localized mainly in fast growing poorly differentiated areas. Accumulation of mutant p53 was verified by immunoprecipitation in most of the positive HCC samples (14/15), implying occurrence of p53 mutations. No cells positive for p53 were found in 354 preneoplastic hepatocellular lesions examined. This indicates that p53 mutation is associated with progression, rather than early development, of HCC in the low-aflatoxin B(1)-exposed region. The intracellular distribution patterns of p53 and HBx were different, with the former within nuclei and the latter confined to cytoplasmic compartment. HBx did not coimmunoprecipitate with p53. These data indicate that p53-HBx binding is infrequent, if it really occurs, in HBV-infected human liver, and that it cannot be a common mechanism of HBV-associated hepatocarcinogenesis. In addition, p53 accumulation was also observed in some parenchymal and ductular (oval) cells in cirrhotic livers and, more frequently, in fulminant hepatitis, being independent of HBx expression, and seemingly associated with the damage and/or regeneration of liver parenchyma, perhaps merely reflecting a cellular stress response.

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