SPARC and Hevin expression correlate with tumour angiogenesis in hepatocellular carcinoma

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Both Secreted Protein Acidic and Rich in Cysteine (SPARC) and Hevin are multifunctional matricellular glycoproteins. Recent experimental studies suggested that Hevin and SPARC together diminish angiogenesis, but their significance in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains unclear. This study aimed to correlate SPARC and Hevin expression with angiogenesis and clinicopathological features in HCC. SPARC and Hevin protein and mRNA expression in HCC specimens were assessed by immunostaining, immunoblotting, and quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. Tumour microvessel density (MVD) was assessed by CD34 immunostaining. The role of SPARC and Hevin in HCC was further assessed in anin vivonude mice xenograft model. Both SPARC and Hevin mRNA levels were significantly higher in tumours than in non-tumourous livers. A significant correlation between tumour SPARC and Hevin mRNA levels was found. Moreover, SPARC protein localized in the tumour sinusoidal area correlated significantly with Hevin protein localized in HCC cells. Truncated forms of SPARC and Hevin proteins were detected in clinical samples. Truncated SPARC protein localized in the tumour sinusoidal area correlated significantly with tumour MVD. On the other hand, overexpression of full-length SPARC in tumour xenografts in athymic nude mice significantly delayed tumour growth, and this delay was related to a decrease in tumour angiogenesis. Expression of Hevin protein within HCC cells was related to the presence of tumour encapsulation and the absence of hepatitis B surface antigen in clinical samples. Overexpression of Hevin in tumour xenografts also significantly delayed tumour growth. In conclusion, this study has shown that SPARC and Hevin are upregulated in HCC compared with non-tumourous liver, and that they are inter-related at both mRNA and protein levels. Moreover, both SPARC and Hevin were related to HCC angiogenesis and tumour progression.

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