Although HCC is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, there is only an elemental understanding of its molecular pathogenesis. In western countries, HCV infection is the main etiology underlying this cancer's accelerating incidence. To characterize the molecular events of the hepatocarcinogenic process, and to identify new biomarkers for early HCC, the gene expression profiles of 75 tissue samples were analyzed representing the stepwise carcinogenic process from preneoplastic lesions (cirrhosis and dysplasia) to HCC, including 4 neoplastic stages (very early HCC to metastatic tumors) from patients with HCV infection. We identified gene signatures that accurately reflect the pathological progression of disease at each stage. Eight genes distinguish between control and cirrhosis, 24 between cirrhosis and dysplasia, 93 between dysplasia and early HCC, and 9 between early and advanced HCC. Using quantitative real-time reverse-transcription PCR, we validated several novel molecular tissue markers for early HCC diagnosis, specifically induction of abnormal spindle-like, microcephaly-associated protein, hyaluronan-mediated motility receptor, primase 1, erythropoietin, and neuregulin 1. In addition, pathway analysis revealed dysregulation of the Notch and Toll-like receptor pathways in cirrhosis, followed by deregulation of several components of the Jak/STAT pathway in early carcinogenesis, then upregulation of genes involved in DNA replication and repair and cell cycle in late cancerous stages. CONCLUSION: These findings provide a comprehensive molecular portrait of genomic changes in progressive HCV-related HCC.
"(2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.canlet.2014.05.016 Some chromosomal defects found in the dysplastic nodules in cirrhotic liver are also present in HCC, which suggests that chromosomal defects occur at early stages of tumor development   . However, the mechanisms by which chromosomal abnormalities occur are still unknown. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: As in many tumours, heterogeneity within the cell population is one of the main features of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Heterogeneity results from the ability of tumour to produce multiple subpopulations of cells with diverse genetic, biochemical and immunological characteristics. Little is known about how heterogeneity emerges and how it is maintained. Fluctuations in single cells can be masked or completely misrepresented when cell populations are analyzed. It has become exceedingly apparent that the utility of measurement based on the analysis of bulk specimens is limited by intra-tumour genetic and epigenetic heterogeneity, as characteristics of the most abundant cell type might not necessarily predict the properties of cell populations. Yet, such non-uniformities often unveil molecular patterns that can represent mechanisms of tumour progression. Interestingly, variability among single cells in a population may arise from different responses to intrinsic and extrinsic perturbations mainly mediated by the plasma membrane. The association of certain proteins, including tetraspanins, and lipids in specific location on the plasma membrane constitutes specialized structure called tetraspanin-enriched microdomains (TEMs). TEMs organization in cancer may reveal essential clues for understanding pathogenic mechanisms underlying cancer progression. Along these lines, TEMs and HCC progression represent a valuable paradigm for gaining a deeper understanding of such mechanisms.
Cancer Letters 05/2014; DOI:10.1016/j.canlet.2014.05.016 · 5.62 Impact Factor
"Interestingly, most of these shared genes manifested an earlier differential co-expression and then a later differential expression (Additional file 1). A similar trend was seen with the three genes overlapping the original differential expression study  (Additional file 1). This observation suggested that differential co-expression is a more upstream event than differential expression in biological systems. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Gene expression profiles have been frequently integrated with the human protein interactome to uncover functional modules under specific conditions like disease state. Beyond traditional differential expression analysis, differential co-expression analysis has emerged as a robust approach to reveal condition-specific network modules, with successful applications in a few human disease studies. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which is often interrelated with the Hepatitis C virus, typically develops through multiple stages. A comprehensive investigation of HCC progression-specific differential co-expression modules may advance our understanding of HCC's pathophysiological mechanisms.
Compared with differentially expressed genes, differentially co-expressed genes were found more likely enriched with Hepatitis C virus binding proteins and cancer-mutated genes, and they were clustered more densely in the human reference protein interaction network. These observations indicated that a differential co-expression approach could outperform the standard differential expression network analysis in searching for disease-related modules. We then proposed a differential co-expression network approach to uncover network modules involved in HCC development. Specifically, we discovered subnetworks that enriched differentially co-expressed gene pairs in each HCC transition stage, and further resolved modules with coherent co-expression change patterns over all HCC developmental stages. Our identified network modules were enriched with HCC-related genes and implicated in cancer-related biological functions. In particular, APC and YWHAZ were highlighted as two most remarkable genes in the network modules, and their dynamic interaction partnership was resolved in HCC development.
We demonstrated that integration of differential co-expression with the protein interactome could outperform the traditional differential expression approach in discovering network modules of human diseases. In our application of this approach to HCC's gene expression data, we successfully identified subnetworks with marked differential co-expression in individual HCC stage transitions and network modules with coherent co-expression change patterns over all HCC developmental stages. Our results shed light on subtle HCC mechanisms, including temporal activation and dismissal of pivotal functions and dynamic interaction partnerships of key genes.
"Such relationships were validated by evaluating another independent serum anti-HCV positive HCC data set . This data set included four neoplastic stages (very early HCC to very advanced metastatic tumors) from patients with HCV infection . When the relationships between the different pathological HCC subgroups and pluripotent stem cells (including ESCs and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) ) were compared, an increased stemness that accurately reflected the pathological progression of the disease was again observed (Figure 4C). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in young subjects is rare but more devastating. We hypothesize that genes and etiological pathways are unique to young HCC (yHCC; <=40 years old at diagnosis) patients. We therefore compared the gene expression profiles between yHCCs and HCCs from elderly patients.
All 44 young HCCs (<=40 years old at the diagnosis; 23 cases in the training set while another 21 in the validation cohort) were positive for serum hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), but negative for antibodies to hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV). All 48 elderly (>40 years old; 38 in the training set while another 10 in the validation cohort) HCC patients enrolled were also serum HBsAg positive and anti-HCV negative. Comparative genomics analysis was further performed for elucidating enriched or suppressed biological activities in different HCC subtypes. The yHCC group showed more macroscopic venous invasions (60.9% vs. 10.5%, p < 0.001), fewer associated cirrhosis (17.4% vs. 63.2%, p < 0.001), and distinct profiles of expressed genes, especially those related to DNA replication and repair. yHCCs possessed increased embryonic stem cell (ESC) traits and were more dedifferentiated. A 309-gene signature was obtained from two training cohorts and validated in another independent data set. The ILF3 ESC gene, which was previously reported in poorly differentiated breast cancers and bladder carcinomas, was also present in yHCCs. Genes associated with HCC suppression, including AR and ADRA1A, were less abundant in yHCCs. ESC genes were also more enriched in advanced HCCs from elderly patients.
This study revealed the molecular makeup of yHCC and the link between ESC traits and HCC subtypes. Findings in elderly tumors, therefore, cannot be simply extrapolated to young patients, and yHCC should be treated differently.
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