The aim of the study was to explore the clinical significance of let-7 expression in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
A PCR array was conducted to screen for let-7 expression in early-stage HCC. Next, the deregulation of let-7 was confirmed by quantitative real-time RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) in another set of liver tissues, including normal control (NC), chronic hepatitis (CH), liver cirrhosis (LC), HCC, and adjacent nontumor (NT) tissues. In addition, as the potential target mRNA of let-7, alpha 2(I) collagen (COL1A2) mRNA was also quantified in the above liver tissues. Finally, an association study comparing let-7 and COL1A2 and their clinical significance in HCC was conducted.
PCR array analysis revealed that the expression levels of let-7a/7b/7c were significantly downregulated in early-stage HCC compared to those in NT tissues. As compared to NC samples, qRT-PCR further confirmed that let-7a/7b/7c/7e were significantly upregulated in CH, LC, and NT tissues, while there were no significant differences in expression between the HCC and NC groups. Although COL1A2 may be the target mRNA of let-7, only let-7c expression was inversely correlated with COL1A2 mRNA expression in CH tissues. In HCC tissues, levels of let-7a/7b/7c/7e were positively correlated with that of COL1A2 mRNA. The clinical significance study revealed that elevated let-7a expression was significantly correlated with serosal and vein invasion, while elevated let-7c expression was significantly correlated with vein invasion and advanced TNM stage. Elevated let-7e expression was significantly correlated with vein invasion in HCC. Significantly shorter postoperative overall survival was observed in HCC patients with high let-7c expression.
The results suggest that aberrant expression of let-7a/7b/7c/7e occurs in benign liver diseases and HCC. The upregulation of let-7 expression is associated with the progression and poor prognosis of HCC, and further mechanistic studies are warranted.