Background: Granulin-epithelin precursor (GEP), a secretory growth factor, demonstrated overexpression in various human cancers, however, mechanism remain elusive. Primary liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), ranks the second in cancer-related death globally. GEP controlled growth, invasion, metastasis and chemo-resistance in liver cancer. Noted that GEP gene locates at 17q21 and the region has been frequently reported to be amplified in subset of HCC. The study aims to investigate if copy number gain would associate with GEP overexpression.
Methods: Quantitative Microsatellite Analysis (QuMA) was used to quantify the GEP DNA copy number, and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) was performed to consolidate the amplification status. GEP gene copy number, mRNA expression level and clinico-pathological features were analyzed.
Results: GEP DNA copy number determined by QuMA corroborated well with the FISH data, and the gene copy number correlated with the expression levels (n = 60, r = 0.331, P = 0.010). Gain of GEP copy number was observed in 20% (12/60) HCC and associated with hepatitis B virus infection status (P = 0.015). In HCC with increased GEP copy number, tight association between GEP DNA and mRNA levels were observed (n = 12, r = 0.664, P = 0.019).
Conclusions: Gain of the GEP gene copy number was observed in 20% HCC and the frequency comparable to literatures reported on the chromosome region 17q. Increased gene copy number contributed to GEP overexpression in subset of HCC.