Integration of woodchuck hepatitis and N-myc rearrangement determine size and histologic grade of hepatic tumors



Integrations of woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) DNA and rearrangements of the N-myc 2 gene have been detected frequently in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) of Eastern woodchucks (Marmota monax) chronically infected with WHV. Fifty-five hepatocellular neoplasms and matched nontumor hepatic tissue specimens obtained postmortem from 13 chronic WHV carriers were analyzed and the frequency of WHV DNA integrations and of N-myc rearrangements compared in tumors of different size and histologic grade. Four small tumor nodules were classified histologically as adenomas and integrated sequences of WHV DNA were detected in two of the four tumor nodules. In one of the two nodules, there was evidence of N-myc rearrangement. Fifty-one neoplasms were classified as HCC. Seven were grade 1 HCCs. WHV DNA integrations were demonstrated in 43% but none had N-myc rearrangements. Twenty grade 2 HCCs had WHV DNA integrations in 80% and in 38% N-myc rearrangements were present. Twenty-four grade 3 HCCs had integrations of WHV DNA in 79% and N-myc rearrangements in 74%. In two other grade 3 HCCs, rearrangements of N-myc were detected in the absence of WHV DNA integrations. The 12 largest tumors in the series all were grade 2 or 3 HCCs, and in 83%, both WHV DNA integrations and N-myc rearrangements were demonstrated. In conclusion, molecular changes observed in this study suggest a progression of genetic alterations providing either a significant proliferative stimulation and/or a growth advantage in hepatocarcinogenesis of woodchucks with chronic WHV infection. (HEPATOLOGY 2004;39:1008–1016.)