Purpose: To analyze the correlation between signal intensity in the hepatobiliary phase of gadoxetic acid-enhanced magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and the expression of hepatocyte transporters with histopathologic features in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Materials and methods: Institutional ethics committee approval and informed consent were obtained. Forty surgically resected HCCs were classified as hypointense (n = 32) or iso- or hyperintense (n = 8) on the basis of findings in the hepatobiliary phase of gadoxetic acid-enhanced MR imaging. The following were compared between hypointense and iso- or hyperintense HCCs: the time-signal intensity curves at gadoxetic acid-enhanced MR imaging, the expression levels of seven transporters (four organic anion-transporting polypeptides [OATPs] and three multidrug-resistant proteins [MRPs]) at polymerase chain reaction (PCR) (for 22 nodules), results of immunostaining of OATP8, and histologic features. Statistical analysis (unpaired t test, Mann-Whitney test, chi(2) test, and Fisher exact test) was performed for each result.
Results: On the time-signal intensity curves, hypointense HCCs showed a decreasing pattern, whereas iso- or hyperintense HCCs showed an increasing pattern after the dynamic phase. PCR revealed that expression of OATP8 (an uptake transporter) in hypointense HCCs was lower and that in iso- or hyperintense HCCs was higher than in background liver (P < .001). The expression level of MRP3 (a sinusoidal export transporter) showed a similar trend to that of OATP8 (P < .001). Immunostaining revealed that OATP8 expression was weak in hypointense HCCs, whereas it was sustained in iso- or hyperintense HCCs (P < .001). At histologic examination, a pseudoglandular proliferation pattern with bile plugs was more commonly observed in iso- or hyperintense HCCs than in hypointense HCCs (P = .01 for proliferation patterns and P = .006 for bile plugs).
Conclusion: The enhancement ratio of HCCs in the hepatobiliary phase of gadoxetic acid-enhanced MR imaging positively correlated with expression levels of OATP8 and MRP3, indicating that gadoxetic acid is taken up by OATP8 and excreted by MRP3.
(c) RSNA, 2010.