Disrupted cell adhesion but not proliferation mediates cyst formation in polycystic liver disease

Mod Pathol. 2008 Nov;21(11):1293-302. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2008.115. Epub 2008 Jun 27.


The pathogenesis of polycystic liver disease is not well understood. The putative function of the associated proteins, hepatocystin and Sec63p, do not give insight in their role in cystogenesis and their tissue-wide expression does not fit with the liver-specific phenotype of the disease. We designed this study with the specific aim to dissect whether pathways involved in polycystic kidney diseases are also implicated in polycystic liver disease. Therefore, we immunohistochemically stained cyst tissue specimen with antibodies directed against markers for apoptosis, proliferation, growth receptors, signaling and adhesion. We analyzed genotyped polycystic liver disease cyst tissue (n=21) compared with normal liver tissue (n=13). None of the cysts showed proliferation of epithelial cells. In addition, anti-apoptosis marker Bcl-2 revealed slight increase in expression, with variable increase of apoptosis marker active caspase 3. Growth factor receptors, EGFR and c-erbB-2, were overexpressed and mislocalized. We found EGFR staining in the nuclei of cyst epithelial cells regardless of mutational state of the patient. Further, in hepatocystin-mutant polycystic liver disease patients, apical membranous staining of c-erbB-2 and adhesion markers, MUC1 and CEA, was lost and the proteins appeared to be retained in cytoplasm of cyst epithelia. Finally, we found loss of adhesion molecules E-cadherin and Ep-CAM in cyst epithelium of all patients. Nevertheless, we observed normal beta-catenin expression. Our results show that polycystic liver disease cystogenesis is different from renal cystogenesis. Polycystic liver disease involves overexpression of growth factor receptors and loss of adhesion. In contrast, proliferation or deregulated apoptosis do not seem to be implicated. Moreover differential findings for PRKCSH- and SEC63-associated polycystic liver disease suggest a divergent mechanism for cystogenesis in these two groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Apoptosis
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism*
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cell Nucleus / pathology
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Cysts / metabolism
  • Cysts / pathology*
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Liver Diseases / metabolism
  • Liver Diseases / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucin-1 / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • MUC1 protein, human
  • Mucin-1
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • EGFR protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Receptor, ErbB-2