Expression of Beclin-1, an autophagy-related marker, in chronic hepatitis and hepatocellular carcinoma and its relation with apoptotic markers

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Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most frequent malignant tumors in worldwide. Multiple precancerous factors, including infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV), have been studied extensively. Autophagy is a highly regulated process, involved in the turnover of damaged organelles. The relationship between apoptosis and autophagy is still a debated topic especially in HCC. This study aimed to investigate the expression of beclin-1 in chronic hepatitis and HCC and its relation with apoptotic markers. The study included the following: 20 chronic HCV hepatitis cases (first group), 35 HCC cases (second group), and 10 normal tissues as control (third group). All were stained for anti-beclin-1, Bcl-2, Bcl-XL, and Bax antibodies. A significant positive correlation was found between beclin-1 and Bcl-2 among the first group. While a significant inverse correlation was found between them in the second group. A positive correlation was found between beclin-1 and Bcl-XL expression in the first and the second groups. Also positive significant correlations were identified between beclin-1 and Bax in the first and the second groups. Autophagy and apoptosis in the liver are interrelated processes. The high levels of beclin-1 observed in hepatitis may suggest a central role that may limit liver damage and interact with progression to cancer where beclin-1 later on becomes suppressed in aggressive HCC cases. So defective autophagy synergized with defective apoptosis may facilitate tumor progression. Knowledge of the role of autophagic molecules together with apoptotic markers in HCC could lead to improved treatment efficacy and overall prognosis.

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