Deficiency of the Promyelocytic Leukemia Protein Fosters Hepatitis C-Associated Hepatocarcinogenesis in Mice

Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University Hospital, Essen, Germany
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 09/2012; 7(9):e44474. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044474
Source: PubMed


Overwhelming lines of epidemiological evidence have indicated that persistent infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major risk for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). We have recently shown that HCV core protein mediates functional inactivation of the promyelocytic leukemia (PML) tumor suppressor pathway. However, the role of PML in HCC development yet remains unclear. To clarify the function of PML in liver carcinogenesis and HCV-associated pathogenesis we crossed PML-deficient mice with HCV transgene (HCV-Tg) expressing mice and treated the resulting animals with DEN/Phenobarbital, an established protocol for liver carcinogenesis. Seven months after treatment, livers were examined macroscopically and histologically. Genetic depletion of the tumor suppressor PML coincided with an increase in hepatocyte proliferation, resulting in development of multiple dysplastic nodules in 100% of the PML-deficient livers and of HCCs in 53%, establishing a tumor suppressive function of PML in the liver. In animals expressing the HCV-transgene in PML-deficient background, HCC development occurred even in 73%, while only 7% of their wildtype littermates developed HCC. The neoplastic nature of the tumors was confirmed by histology and expression of the HCC marker glutamine synthetase. Several pro- and antiapoptotic factors were tested for differential expression and liver carcinogenesis was associated with impaired expression of the proapoptotic molecule TRAIL in PML-deficient mice. In conclusion, this study provides first in vivo evidence that the tumor suppressor PML acts as an important barrier in liver carcinogenesis and HCV-dependent liver pathology.

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    ABSTRACT: Successful escape from immune response characterises chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, which results in persistence of infection in about 80% of the patients. The deleterious consequences are cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. HCV accounts the most frequent cause for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and liver transplantation (LT) in the western world. The underlying molecular mechanisms how HCV promotes tumor development are largely unknown. There is some in vitro and in vivo evidence that HCV interferes with the tumor suppressor PML and may thereby importantly contribute to the HCV-associated pathogenesis with respect to the development of HCC. The tumor suppressor protein "promyelocytic leukemia" (PML) has been implicated in the regulation of important cellular processes like differentiation and apoptosis. In cancer biology, PML and its associated nuclear bodies (NBs) have initially attracted intense interest due to its role in the pathogenesis of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). More recently, loss of PML has been implicated in human cancers of various histologic origins. Moreover, number and intensity of PML-NBs increase in response to interferons (IFNs) and there is evidence that PML-NBs may represent preferential targets in viral infections. Thus, PML could not only play a role in the mechanisms of the antiviral action of IFNs but may also be involved in a direct oncogenic effect of the HCV on hepatocytes. This review aims to summarise current knowledge about HCV-related liver carcinogenesis and to discuss a potential role of the nuclear body protein PML for this this hard-to-treat cancer.
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