Background: Hepatocellular adenomas (HCA) are benign liver tumors that may transform into hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), but the molecular drivers of this transformation remain ill-defined. This study evaluates the molecular changes in HCA and HCC and in comparison to their adjacent non-neoplastic liver.
Methods: 11 patients with HCA and 10 patients with HCC without underlying hepatitis or cirrhosis were included in this pilot study. Tumor and non-tumor liver tissues were selected for immunohistochemical staining, small RNA sequencing, and targeted gene sequencing. We compared microRNA expressions and mutations between HCA and HCC and non-neoplastic liver.
Results: HCA were classified as inflammatory (n = 6), steatotic (n = 4), or β-catenin activated (n = 1) subtypes. MicroRNA profile of all 3 HCA subtypes clustered between that of normal liver and HCC in principal component analysis. In both HCA and HCC, miR-200a, miR-429, and miR-490-3p were significantly downregulated compared to normal liver, whereas miR-452, miR-766, and miR-1180 were significantly upregulated. In addition, compared to HCA, HCC had significantly higher expression of members of the chromosome 19 miRNA cluster (C19MC), including miR-515-5p, miR-517a, miR-518b, and miR-520c-3p.
Conclusions: This study indicates that while there are significant differences in the molecular profile between HCA and HCC, several miRNAs are similarly deregulated in HCA and HCC compared to adjacent normal liver. These results may provide insights into the drivers of hepatocarcinogenesis and warrant further investigations.