Cyclins, cyclin-dependent kinases (Cdks), and Cdk inhibitors (CdkIs) are frequently altered in human cancer. p18INK4C, a member of the INK4 family of CdkIs, is a potential tumor-suppressor gene product. However, the expression of p18INK4C in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains unknown. The aim of this study was to examine the expression of p18INK4C in various liver diseases including HCC and to assess its clinical significance in HCC. To that end, we examined the expression of p18INK4C by immunohistochemistry in various liver diseases, including 51 HCCs, and also studied the relationship between p18INK4C expression, the phosphorylation of retinoblastoma protein (pRb), and the activity level of Cdk4 and Cdk6. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed the frequent loss of p18INK4C expression in HCC, especially in poorly differentiated HCC. The loss of p18INK4C expression was shown to be associated with a poor prognosis compared with that associated with p18INK4C- positivity. Further, the kinase activity of Cdk4 was found to be higher in p18INK4C-negative HCCs than in p18INK4C- positive HCCs. However, the level of Cdk6 activity was similar in the 2 groups of HCCs. In p18INK4C- positive HCCs, p18INK4C dominantly interacted with Cdk4 rather than with Cdk6. pRb phosphorylated at serine(Ser) 780 was detected more frequently in p18INK4C - negative than in p18INK4C - positive HCCs. In conclusion, the loss of p18INK4C expression may play a role in the differentiation and development of HCC through the up-regulation of Cdk4 activity.
Copyright 2004 American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases