Gut 48:558-564 doi:10.1136/gut.48.4.558
  • Liver disease

Enhanced glypican-3 expression differentiates the majority of hepatocellular carcinomas from benign hepatic disorders


BACKGROUND/AIMS Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a common malignant tumour worldwide, and its differential diagnosis from benign lesions of the liver is often difficult yet of great clinical importance. In the present study, we analysed whether glypican-3 is useful in differentiating between benign and malignant liver diseases and whether it influences the growth behaviour of HCC.

METHODS Northern blot analysis and in situ hybridisation.

RESULTS Northern blot analysis indicated that expression of glypican-3 mRNA was either low or absent in normal liver, in focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH), and in liver cirrhosis. In contrast, expression of glypican-3 mRNA was markedly increased in 20 of 30 and moderately increased in five of 30 HCC samples. The average increase in glypican-3 mRNA expression in HCC was significant compared with expression in normal liver (21.7-fold increase, p<0.01). In comparison with FNH or liver cirrhosis, glypican-3 mRNA expression in HCC was increased 7.2- (p<0.05) and 10.8-fold (p<0.01), respectively. In addition, pushing HCCs exhibited significantly higher glypican-3 mRNA expression than invading tumours (p<0.05). In situ hybridisation analysis demonstrated weak expression of glypican-3 mRNA in normal hepatocytes and bile ductular cells, and weak to occasionally moderate signals in hepatocytes forming nodules of liver cirrhosis and in regenerated hepatic nodules of FNH. In contrast, glypican-3 in situ hybridisation signals were intense in hepatic cancer cells with even higher levels in pushing HCCs than in invading HCCs.

CONCLUSIONS These findings suggest that glypican-3, in many cases, has the potential to differentiate between benign and malignant liver diseases.


  • Abbreviations used in this paper:
    hepatocellular carcinoma
    focal nodular hyperplasia
    heparansulphate proteoglycans
    hepatocyte growth factor
    epidermal growth factor
    heparin binding EGF-like growth factor
    sodium dodecyl sulphate