Background & aims: Human liver cancer can be divided into 2 categories that are characterized by activation of beta-catenin and genomic instability. Here we investigate whether similar categories exist among 5 transgenic models of liver cancer, including c-myc, transforming growth factor-alpha, E2F-1, c-myc/transforming growth factor-alpha, and c-myc/E2F-1 mice.
Methods: The random amplified polymorphic DNA method was used to assess the overall genomic instability, and chromosomal loci affected by genomic alterations were determined by microsatellite analysis. beta-Catenin mutations and deletions were analyzed by polymerase chain reaction and sequencing screening. Cellular localization of beta-catenin and expression of alpha-fetoprotein, a prognostic marker of hepatocellular carcinoma, were investigated by immunohistochemistry.
Results: Liver tumors from the transgenic mice could be divided into 2 broad categories characterized by extensive genomic instability (exemplified by the c-myc/transforming growth factor-alpha mouse) and activation of beta-catenin (exemplified by the c-myc/E2F-1 mouse). The c-myc/transforming growth factor-alpha tumors displayed extensive genomic instability with recurrent loss of heterozygosity at chromosomes 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 12, 14, and X and a low rate of beta-catenin activation. The genomic instability was evident from the early dysplastic stage and occurred concomitantly with increased expression of alpha-fetoprotein. The c-myc/E2F-1 tumors were characterized by a high frequency of beta-catenin activation in the presence of a relatively stable genome and low alpha-fetoprotein levels.
Conclusions: We have identified 2 prototype experimental models, i.e., c-myc/transforming growth factor-alpha and c-myc/E2F-1 mice, for the 2 categories of human hepatocellular carcinoma characterized by genomic instability and beta-catenin activation, respectively. These mouse models will assist in the elucidation of the molecular basis of human hepatocellular carcinoma.