Tie2 vascular endothelial receptor expression and function in hepatocellular carcinoma



Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is generally characterized as a hypervascular tumor of rapid growth. We have previously reported that angiopoietin (Ang), a ligand for Tie2 vascular endothelial-specific receptor tyrosine kinase, may play a role in the progression of human HCC (J Clin Invest 1999;103:341-345) and matrix proteinase expression (Cancer Res 2001;61:2145-2153). However, the role of Tie2 receptor in hepatic oncogenesis is unknown. The Tie2 receptor protein was overexpressed in the neovascular endothelium of 31 of 39 (80%) human HCC tumors by immunohistochemical analysis with significant correlation to cell dedifferentiation and tumor size (P < .05). In vitro expression of a dominant-negative construct, containing a soluble Tie2 ectodomain (sTie2), led to Ang protein interaction, inhibition of endogenous Tie2 phosphorylation in vascular endothelial cells and matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9) suppression. In conclusion, tumorigenicity with neovascularization was suppressed by in vivo gene transfer and sTie2 expression in a murine HCC model, suggesting a possible role for Tie2 expression in the induction of HCC neovascularization and disease progression. Inhibition of the Ang/Tie2 signal transduction cascade is a promising approach for tumor treatment.