Diagnostic value of miRNA-96-5p/3p in dysplastic nodules and well-differentiated small hepatocellular carcinoma

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Hepatocarcinogenesis is a multistep process from cirrhosis through low-grade dysplastic nodule, high-grade dysplastic nodule to hepatocellular carcinoma. Differential diagnosis between high-grade dysplastic nodules and early hepatocellular carcinomas is particularly difficult. The present study aims to identify a novel biological marker for differential diagnosis of the two lesions.


The expression level of an miRNA pair, miRNA-96-5p and 3p, was assessed by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction in hepatic tissues.


We showed that mature miRNA-96-5p and passenger strand miRNA-96-3p were differentially expressed in multistep hepatocarcinogenesis. miRNA-96-5p was significantly upregulated from cirrhosis, dysplastic nodules to hepatocellular carcinoma. However, significance of determination of miRNA-96-5p expression level for differential diagnosis between high-grade dysplastic nodule and hepatocellular carcinoma is limited. In contrast, the expression of miRNA-96-3p was detectable in cirrhosis and dysplastic nodules. Also, it was completely undetectable in the majority of hepatocellular carcinomas (30/34, 88.2%). The sensitivity and specificity of miRNA-96-3p negative expression for differential diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinomas from high-grade dysplastic nodules were 88.2% and 84.2%, respectively. In addition, a more specific diagnosis could be carried out by combining miRNA-96-3p with glypican 3, with the specificity of 100%.


These findings demonstrated that miRNA-96-3p is a helpful diagnostic biomarker in differential diagnosis between high-grade dysplastic nodules and well-differentiated small hepatocellular carcinomas, especially in combination with glypican 3.

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