The analysis of organic anion transporting polypeptide (OATP) mRNA and protein patterns in primary and metastatic liver cancer

Cancer Biol Ther. 2011 May 1;11(9):801-11. doi: 10.4161/cbt.11.9.15176. Epub 2011 May 1.


Organic anion transporting polypeptides (OATP, SLCO genes) mediate the uptake of endobiotics and drugs. Thus, their expression levels and pattern could be of relevance for cancer therapy. This prompted us to investigate the expression of poorly characterized OATPs, namely OATP2A1, OATP3A1, OATP4A1 and OATP5A1 in hepatic cancer of different origin. First, mRNA levels of all eleven OATPs were determined in paired (cancerous and adjacent non-cancerous) specimens from 43 patients with primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma, HCC; cholangiocellular carcinoma, CCC) and liver metastases from colon tumors (MLT). Real-time RT-PCR analysis revealed that all OATPs, except OATP1C1 and OATP6A1, are extensively expressed in nearly all samples. In contrast to downregulated OATP1B1, OATP1B3, OATP1A2 and OATP2B1 in cancerous vs. non-cancerous samples, an increase in OATP2A1, OATP3A1, OATP4A1 and OATP5A1 mRNA levels was seen in tumors (up to 40-fold for OATP5A1 in the MLT group). Therefore, OATP2A1, OATP3A1, OATP4A1 and OATP5A1 were further investigated by immunofluorescence microscopy on paraffin-embedded cancerous and non-cancerous sections (seven per group). OATP-derived immunoreactivity was observed in plasma membranes and cytosol of hepatic tumor cells, and additionally, in various cytokeratin 19 positive bile ducts. An increased percentage of immunoreactive cells and a higher staining intensity in cancerous vs. non-cancerous paraffin sections paralleled higher mRNA levels of OATP2A1, OATP3A1, OATP4A1 and OATP5A1 in cancerous tissues of HCC, CCC and MLT patients. The extensive expression of OATP2A1, OATP3A1, OATP4A1 and OATP5A1 in hepatic tumors of different origin suggests that these transporters might be further exploited for the discovery of novel anticancer agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Organic Anion Transporters / biosynthesis
  • Organic Anion Transporters / genetics*
  • Organic Anion Transporters / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Young Adult


  • Organic Anion Transporters
  • RNA, Messenger