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Int J Cancer. 2006 Apr 15;118(8):1922-9.

Expression of hiwi gene in human gastric cancer was associated with proliferation of cancer cells.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Peking University School of Oncology, Beijing Institute for Cancer Research, Beijing, People's Republic of China.


Stem cell genetics research may be critical to our understanding of carcinogenesis, as both stem cells and cancer cells possess the ability to self-renew. Recent discoveries have indicated that the piwi family of genes plays an essential role in stem cell self-renewal in diverse organisms. The hiwi gene, the human homolog of the piwi family, participates in germ cell proliferation and its overexpression may cause the development of germ cell malignancy, but its expression and function in epithelial solid cancers have not been explored. In the present study, we investigated whether there was an association between hiwi expression and human gastric cancer and its potential mechanism. RT-PCR findings demonstrated that hiwi was expressed in different gastric cancer cell lines. To identify the HIWI protein in gastric cancer, we developed a specific monoclonal antibody against HIWI and immunohistochemistry was performed on various gastric tissues. We found that the expression ratio of hiwi in normal gastric tissues, atrophic gastritis, intestinal metaplasia and gastric cancers was 10% (5/50), 36% (18/50), 36% (18/50) and 76% (38/50), respectively, which was consistent with precancerous development. Notably, the expression pattern of hiwi in gastric cancer tissues was similar to that of Ki67, which was used as a marker of proliferation. Moreover, the suppression of hiwi by antisense or RNAi inhibited the growth of gastric cancer cells and induced cell cycle arrest in G2/M phase. These results suggest that hiwi may be involved in the development of gastric cancer and is a potential target for cancer therapy.

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