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Hum Pathol. 2004 Apr;35(4):424-9.

Overexpression of metastatic tumor antigen 1 in hepatocellular carcinoma: Relationship to vascular invasion and estrogen receptor-alpha.

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Department of Medicine, Veterans Administration Medical Center, Long Beach, California, USA.


The morbidity and mortality experienced by cancer patients is mainly due to the invasion and metastasis of the primary tumor. Recently, a potential metastasis-associated gene and its product, the metastatic tumor antigen 1 (MTA1), were identified; this gene has been found to be overexpressed in a variety of cancers. MTA1 is also known as a potent co-repressor of estrogen receptor element transcription in breast cancer cells. The expression of MTA1 in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and its potential relationship to metastasis and to estrogen receptor alpha (ER-alpha) expression has not been examined, forming the basis for this study. Paraffin sections of 45 HCC specimens, 4 different HCC cell lines, and normal hepatocyte cell line (h NHeps) were immunostained with MTA1 and ER-alpha antibodies. In addition, we examined, by Western blotting, the MTA1 and ER-alpha expression levels in 4 human HCC lines (HepG2 [wild p53], HLE, HLF, and HuH-7 [mutant p53]). MTA1 was overexpressed in HCC cells versus nonmalignant hepatocytes in 31 of 45 HCC specimens (69%). Its expression was predominantly localized to the nucleus or cytoplasm of HCC cells. Nineteen of 20 HCC (95%) specimens with vascular invasion displayed strong MTA1 expression. Overexpression of MTA1 also significantly correlated with large tumor size. The cytoplasmic and nuclear immunoreactivity for ER-alpha was present in HCC specimens in 46% and 12%, respectively. Expression of MTA1 inversely correlated with the nuclear localization of ER-alpha. There was no marked difference in MTA1 and ER-alpha expression levels between HCC cell line expressing wild-type p53 and cell line with mutated p53 HCC. In conclusion, these findings indicate that overexpression of MTA1 is associated with HCC growth and vascular invasion. Nuclear translocation of ER-alpha inversely correlated with MTA1 expression, suggesting negative regulatory mechanisms.

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