Gene expression profiling reveals underlying molecular mechanisms of the early stages of tamoxifen-induced rat hepatocarcinogenesis

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Tamoxifen is a widely used anti-estrogenic drug for chemotherapy and, more recently, for the chemoprevention of breast cancer. Despite the indisputable benefits of tamoxifen in preventing the occurrence and re-occurrence of breast cancer, the use of tamoxifen has been shown to induce non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, which is a life-threatening fatty liver disease with a risk of progression to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. In recent years, the high-throughput microarray technology for large-scale analysis of gene expression has become a powerful tool for increasing the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis and for identifying new biomarkers with diagnostic and predictive values. In the present study, we used the high-throughput microarray technology to determine the gene expression profiles in the liver during early stages of tamoxifen-induced rat hepatocarcinogenesis. Female Fisher 344 rats were fed a 420 ppm tamoxifen containing diet for 12 or 24 weeks, and gene expression profiles were determined in liver of control and tamoxifen-exposed rats. The results indicate that early stages of tamoxifen-induced liver carcinogenesis are characterized by alterations in several major cellular pathways, specifically those involved in the tamoxifen metabolism, lipid metabolism, cell cycle signaling, and apoptosis/cell proliferation control. One of the most prominent changes during early stages of tamoxifen-induced hepatocarcinogenesis is dysregulation of signaling pathways in cell cycle progression from the G1 to S phase, evidenced by the progressive and sustained increase in expression of the Pdgfc, Calb3, Ets1, and Ccnd1 genes accompanied by the elevated level of the PI3K, p-PI3K, Akt1/2, Akt3, and cyclin B, D1, and D3 proteins. The early appearance of these alterations suggests their importance in the mechanism of neoplastic cell transformation induced by tamoxifen.

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