Aim: To explore the expression of p53, bcl-2, bax, survivin and the cell apoptosis during the development of tree shrew hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the relationship between expression of these genes, its impact on HCC development, and its relation to cell apoptosis.
Methods: Tree shrew HCC was induced with aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), and regular biopsy of liver tissues was carried out and the biopsy tissues were collected during cancer inducement. Liver biopsy tissue and HCC tissue were collected from 35 pre-cancerous experimental animals at wk 30 and 60 and at the 30th-, 60th-, and 90th-wk. Liver biopsy tissues were collected from 13 blank control animals at wk 30, 60, and 90. Expression of p53, bcl-2, bax, and survivin at each stage was examined by immunohistochemistry method. Apoptotic cells were detected in situ by the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated nick end labeling (TUNEL) technique.
Results: The apoptosis rate of normal hepatic cells was extremely low, whereas it increased during the formation of HCC. Expression of the apoptosis-related genes p53, bcl-2, bax, and survivin during the formation of HCC presented an increasing tendency. Expression of p53 did not noticeably relate to that of bcl-2, bax, and survivin, whereas expression of bcl-2 and bax was closely related. In HCC, p53 did not present a distinct relation to cell apoptosis, whereas its high level expression was probably related to liver cell proliferation. Survivin negatively correlated apoptosis index, and its overexpression could inhibit cell apoptosis.
Conclusion: Apoptosis-related genes p53, bcl-2, bax, and survivin are all related to the occurrence of HCC. The anti-apoptosis effect of bcl-2 is influenced by bax, and ratio bcl/bax reflects more correctly the extent of cell apoptosis.