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Cancer. 2001 Jul 1;92(1):136-45.

beta-Catenin mutation and overexpression in hepatocellular carcinoma: clinicopathologic and prognostic significance.

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Department of Pathology, University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Pokfulam, Hong Kong.



beta-Catenin has been recognized as a critical member of the Wnt signaling pathway, and inappropriate activation of this pathway has been implicated in carcinogenesis.


To determine the clinical significance of beta-catenin in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), we performed mutational analysis at exon 3 of the gene, investigated the subcellular protein expression, and analyzed their clinicopathologic and prognostic significance in 60 patients with resected primary HCC.


By direct DNA sequencing, somatic mutations of the beta-catenin gene were detected in 7 (12%) HCCs. All the mutations were found at the region (exon 3) responsible for phosphorylation and ubiquitination, therefore likely to result in stabilization of free cytoplasmic beta-catenin. Nuclear accumulation of the beta-catenin protein, similar to the response to the Wnt signal, was found in 10 (17%) HCCs and was closely associated with gene mutation (P < 0.001). In the remaining cases, nonnuclear type overexpression, that is, overexpression in the cytoplasm and/or cytoplasmic membrane, was observed in 31 (62%) HCCs, thus suggesting that the mechanisms leading to beta-catenin overexpression may be heterogeneous. HCCs with a nonnuclear type of beta-catenin overexpression were more frequently larger than 5 cm in diameter (P = 0.022) and had poorer cellular differentiation (P = 0.037), and the patients had significantly shorter disease-free survival lengths (P = 0.041). Review of the data from previous studies in HCC showed that beta-catenin mutations were more frequent in HCV-associated HCC than in HBV-associated ones.


beta-catenin mutation and deregulation may play an important role in hepatocarcinogenesis. Nonnuclear type beta-catenin overexpression appeared to have pathologic and prognostic significance.

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