High expression of p21WAF1/CIP1 is correlated with human hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with hepatitis C virus-associated chronic liver diseases

Hidetaka Wagayama, Katsuya Shiraki, Kazushi Sugimoto, Takeshi Ito, Katsuhiko Fujikawa, Takenari Yamanaka, Koujiro Takase, Takeshi Nakano
Human Pathology 2002, 33 (4): 429-34
p21(WAF1/CIP1) (p21) protein is a universal inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinases and is regulated transcriptionally by p53, which is activated by DNA stress. Hepatocytes in chronic hepatitis receive several DNA stresses by lymphocytes and Kupffer cells. Therefore, we analyzed p21 expression of hepatocytes in hepatitis C virus (HCV)-associated chronic liver diseases and investigated the possible involvement of p21 in hepatocarcinogenesis. We examined p21 expression in 35 cases of HCV-associated chronic hepatitis and 25 cases of HCV-associated liver cirrhosis by immunohistochemical analysis. The p21 labeling index (LI) was calculated as the ratio of positive cells to total cells. p21-positive hepatocytes were more numerous in areas of intense inflammation and spotty necrosis and areas close to fibrosis, and were increased according to the degrees of grading and staging. The p21 LI with liver cirrhosis was significantly higher than that with chronic hepatitis (14.4 +/- 5.9 versus 11.1 +/- 4.2, P = 0.014). The cumulative incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) was significantly higher in the p21 LI >or=14% group than in the p21 LI <14% group (P = 0.0079). Multivariate analysis demonstrated that p21 expression can be recognized as an independent significant factor for HCC development (relative risk 5.00, P = 0.039). p21 LI decreased significantly after interferon therapy. These results suggested that p21 is up-regulated by the stress of inflammation and fibrosis in HCV-associated chronic liver diseases and that high p21 expression might be related to hepatocarcinogenesis in cirrhotic patients.

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