Expression of human macrophage metalloelastase gene in hepatocellular carcinoma: Correlation with angiostatin generation and its clinical significance



Macrophage metalloelastase, a member of the human matrix metalloproteinase family, is believed to play an important role in angiostatin generation, which, in experimental studies, has an antiangiogenic function and is a key molecule in tumor dormancy. However, no clinical studies have been reported regarding the correlation between human macrophage metalloelastase (HME) gene expression and angiostatin production. Therefore, the present study was designed to evaluate the HME messenger RNA (mRNA) expression and angiostatin generation in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Tumorous and contiguous nontumorous tissues were obtained from 40 HCC patients who underwent curative partial hepatectomy. By using Northern blot hybridization, HME mRNA was detected in 25 of the 40 HCC samples and, in all of these cases, the expression in tumorous tissues was stronger than in the nontumorous tissues. In situhybridization identified the HCC cells as mainly responsible for the signals shown in Northern blot. Angiostatin was detected by Western blot mainly in tumors and showed significant association with HME mRNA expression in tumorous tissues (P= .0008). The patients whose tumors did not express HME mRNA and, thus, did not produce angiostatin, demonstrated poorer survival than those whose tumors showed high expression of HME mRNA and angiostatin generation (P = .002). The univariate and multivariate analyses revealed that HME mRNA expression is a new and independent variable affecting overall survival (P = .001 and P = .03, respectively). These findings show that the HME gene is expressed in HCC being significantly associated with angiostatin generation by such tumors and that HME mRNA expression may serve as a new molecular prognostic marker in HCC patients after partial hepatectomy.