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J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 1997 Oct;12(9-10):S309-13.

Molecular mechanism of hepatocarcinogenesis.

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Department of Internal Medicine, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei.


To clarify the relative role of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) in hepatocarcinogenesis in hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-negative hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in Taiwan, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to detect the HCV-RNA and HBV-DNA sequences in the serum and liver tissues from 31 HBsAg-negative HCC patients. Twenty-one were positive for antibody to HCV (group 1) and 10 were negative (group 2). Hepatitis C virus-RNA was detected by PCR in the serum of 16 group 1 patients and in the liver tissue of 17; while HBV-DNA was found in the liver tissue of only four, and no HBV-DNA was found in the serum. Hepatitis C virus RNA was detected in the serum of one group 2 patient and in the liver tissue of another. In contrast, HBV viral DNA was found in the serum of four group 2 patients and in the liver tissues of five patients. This indicates that HCV plays an important role in hepatocarcinogenesis in HBsAg-negative patients in Taiwan, especially in those with antibody to HCV. In those without antibody to HCV, HBV might still be associated with the development of HCC in a significant proportion of such patients. In order to study the role of the p53 mutation in hepatocarcinogenesis, we investigated the status of the p53 mutation in 61 HCC samples from Taiwan. The exon 5 to 8 of the p53 gene in the tumour tissue of 61 HCC were amplified and sequenced. A total of 20 cases (32.8%) were found to have mutations: 36.6% (15/41) from the HBsAg-positive group and 25.0% (5/20) from the HBsAg-negative group. The corresponding normal liver showed no mutation. The mutation is widely distributed throughout the exon 5 to 8. Only four cases (6.6%), all positive for HBsAg, had a specific hotspot mutation at codon 249 with G to T transversion. These results show that scattered point mutations in p53 are not uncommon in HCC samples from Taiwan and may be important in the development of this cancer. However, the aflatoxin-related specific mutation seems much less related to the genesis of HCC in Taiwan. To study the role of telomerase activity in hepatocarcinogenesis, a total of 39 HCC tissues and the corresponding non-tumour liver tissues were analysed. The results showed that telomerase activity was detected in all the 39 tumour tissues, while it could be detected in six of the 39 non-tumour liver tissues. The high positive rate of telomerase activity in HCC samples suggests that telomerase activity is closely related to the development or progression of HCC. To determine whether exon 1 and exon 2 of the p16 gene are altered in HCC, thirty-four tumours from 30 HCC patients were examined by DNA sequencing analysis of PCR-amplified genomic DNA. Homozygous deletions of MTS1/p16/CDKN2 exon 1 were identified in 1/34 primary tumours (3%), no mutations or rearrangements were found in these specimens. These data suggest that alterations of MTS1/p16/CDKN2 gene are rarely found in HCC, and might play little role in the development of this cancer. To study the clonality of HCC, 18 patients with multiple HCC, most of them small in size, were analysed by DNA fingerprinting. In patients positive for hepatitis B surface antigen, the integration pattern of hepatitis B viral DNA in liver tissue was also analysed. The results by both methods showed that 8/9 hepatitis B surface antigen-positive patients were different in clonality. In the remaining nine patients negative for hepatitis B surface antigen, four had different band patterns in their tumours by DNA fingerprinting. This study indicated that polyclonality of multiple HCC was rather frequent and it highlighted the importance of eliminating the underlying cause of liver injury to improve the survival of these patients. Microsatellite markers were used to study the genetic changes of HCC. Thirty cases of HCC, most of them small in size, were studied. A total of 242 microsatellite markers mapping to 1-22 and X chromosomes was used. The results showed that the range of loss of het.

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