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Gastrointest Cancer. 2015 Feb 1;5:61-71.

Von Hippel-Lindau status influences phenotype of liver cancers arising from PTEN loss.

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Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
Section of Pathology, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA.



PTEN loss contributes to the development of liver diseases including hepatic steatosis and both hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and cholangiocarcinoma (CC). The factors that influence the penetrance of these conditions are unclear. We explored the influence of sustained hypoxia signaling through co-deletion of Pten and Vhl in a murine model.


We used a CreER-linked Keratin 18 mouse model to conditionally delete Pten, Vhl or both in somatic cells of adult mice, evaluating the resultant tumors by histology and gene expression microarray. Existing sets of gene expression data for human HCC and CC were examined for pathways related to those observed in the murine tumors, and a cohort of human CC samples was evaluated for relationships between HIF-1α expression and clinical outcomes.


Both Pten deletion genotypes developed liver tumors, but with differing phenotypes. Pten deletion alone led to large hepatic tumors with widespread hepatosteatosis. Co-deletion of Pten and Vhl with the Keratin 18 promoter resulted in reduced steatosis and a reduced tumor burden that was characterized by a trabecular architecture similar to CC. Genes associated with hepatic steatosis were coordinately expressed in the human HCC dataset, while genes involved in hypoxia response were upregulated in tumors from the human CC dataset. HIF-1α expression and overall survival were examined in an independent cohort of human CC tumors with no statistical differences uncovered.


Pten deletion in Keratin 18 expressing cells leads to aggressive tumor formation and widespread steatosis in mouse livers. Co-deletion of Vhl and Pten results in lower tumor burden with gene expression profiling suggesting a switch from a profile of lipid deposition to an expression profile more consistent with upregulation of the hypoxia response pathway. A relationship between tumor hypoxia signaling and altered hepatic steatotic response suggests that competing influences may alter tumor phenotypes.


Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL); cholangiocarcinoma (CC); hepatocellular-cholangiocarcinoma (HCC); phosphatase and tension homologue deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN)

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