Heparan sulfate proteoglycans mediate cell adhesion and control the activities of numerous growth and motility factors. They play a critical role in carcinogenesis and tumor progression. Agrin is a large multidomain heparan sulfate proteoglycan associated with basement membranes in several tissues. The expression of agrin in the liver has recently been described under physiologic and pathologic conditions. However, little is known about its role in malignancies. We aimed to study the mRNA and protein expression of agrin in cholangiocarcinoma (CC) and focused on the differences between CC and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Eighty surgically removed liver specimens were studied by immunohistochemistry. Representative samples were used for immunoblotting. mRNA expression was measured in 32 samples by real-time polymerase chain reaction. By immunohistochemistry, agrin was seen around bile ducts and blood vessels within the portal areas in the normal liver. Although no expression was found within the hepatic lobules, agrin was deposited in the neovascular basement membrane in HCCs. Agrin was abundant in the tumor-specific basement membrane in well-differentiated areas of CCs, whereas with immunostaining, it was fragmented, decreased, or it even disappeared in less differentiated areas and sites of infiltration. By real-time polymerase chain reaction, up-regulation of agrin expression was measured in HCCs compared with that in the normal liver. CC samples showed an even higher expression of agrin. Immunoblotting confirmed these findings. Our results indicate that agrin might play an important role in neoangiogenesis in human HCC, being a part of the newly formed vasculature. In CC, however, agrin might be involved in tumor progression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine