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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2006 Apr;1765(2):126-47. Epub 2005 Sep 15.

Hepatocellular carcinoma as a complex polygenic disease. Interpretive analysis of recent developments on genetic predisposition.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, Division of Experimental Pathology and Oncology, University of Sassari, Via P. Manzella 4, 07100 Sasssari, Italy.


The different frequency of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in humans at risk suggests a polygenic predisposition. However, detection of genetic variants is difficult in genetically heterogeneous human population. Studies on mouse and rat models identified 7 hepatocarcinogenesis susceptibility (Hcs) and 2 resistance (Hcr) loci in mice, and 7 Hcs and 9 Hcr loci in rats, controlling multiplicity and size of neoplastic liver lesions. Six liver neoplastic nodule remodeling (Lnnr) loci control number and volume of re-differentiating lesions in rat. A Hcs locus, with high phenotypic effects, and various epistatic gene-gene interactions were identified in rats, suggesting a genetic model of predisposition to hepatocarcinogenesis with different subset of low-penetrance genes, at play in different subsets of population, and a major locus. This model is in keeping with human HCC epidemiology. Several putative modifier genes in rodents, deregulated in HCC, are located in chromosomal segments syntenic to sites of chromosomal aberrations in humans, suggesting possible location of predisposing loci. Resistance to HCC is associated with lower genomic instability and downregulation of cell cycle key genes in preneoplastic and neoplastic lesions. p16(INK4A) upregulation occurs in susceptible and resistant rat lesions. p16(INK4A)-induced growth restraint was circumvented by Hsp90/Cdc37 chaperons and E2f4 nuclear export by Crm1 in susceptible, but not in resistant rats and human HCCs with better prognosis. Thus, protective mechanisms seem to be modulated by HCC modifiers, and differences in their efficiency influence the susceptibility to hepatocarcinogenesis and probably the prognosis of human HCC.

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