Factors of transforming growth factor β signalling are co-regulated in human hepatocellular carcinoma
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- Longerich, T., Breuhahn, K., Odenthal, M. et al. Virchows Arch (2004) 445: 589. doi:10.1007/s00428-004-1118-x
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Transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) is a central mitoinhibitory factor for epithelial cells, and alterations of TGFβ signalling have been demonstrated in many different human cancers. We have analysed human hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) for potential pro-tumourigenic alterations in regard to expression of Smad4 and mutations and expression changes of the pro-oncogenic transcriptional co-repressors Ski and SnoN, as well as mRNA levels of matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP2), which is transcriptionally regulated by TGFβ. Smad4 mRNA was detected in all HCCs; while, using immunohistology, loss of Smad4 expression was found in 10% of HCCs. Neither mutations in the transformation-relevant sequences nor significant pro-tumourigenic expression changes of the Ski and SnoN genes were detected. In HCC cell lines, expression of both genes was regulated, potentially involving phosphorylation. Ski showed a distinct nuclear speckled pattern, indicating recruitment to active transcription complexes. MMP2 mRNA levels were increased in 19% of HCCs, whereas MMP2 mRNA was not detectable in HCC cell lines, suggesting that MMP2 was derived only from tumour stroma cells. Transcript levels of Smad4, Ski, SnoN and MMP2 correlated well. These data argue against a significant role of Ski and SnoN in human hepatocarcinogenesis and suggest that, in the majority of HCCs, the analysed factors are co-regulated by an upstream mechanism, potentially by TGFβ itself.