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Angiopoietin switching regulates angiogenesis and progression of human hepatocellular carcinoma
  1. K Sugimachi1,2,
  2. S Tanaka2,
  3. K Taguchi1,
  4. S Aishima1,
  5. M Shimada2,
  6. M Tsuneyoshi1
  1. 1Department of Anatomic Pathology, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka 812-8582, Japan
  2. 2Department of Surgery and Science, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr S Tanaka
 Department of Surgery and Science, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University. 3-1-1 Maidashi, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka 812-8582, Japan;


Aim: Angiopoietin 1 (Ang-1) and its antagonist, angiopoietin 2 (Ang-2), are novel ligands that regulate the Tie2 receptor. The Ang-2 gene is upregulated in the hypervascular type of human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). To gain a better understanding of the role of the Ang–Tie2 system in HCC the expression of these genes was investigated in a series of human HCCs.

Methods: The expression of the angiopoietin and Tie2 proteins was investigated in nine normal liver tissues and 52 surgically resected HCCs. In addition, the effects of hypoxic stimuli on Ang-1, Ang-2, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and erythropoietin (EPO) expression was investigated in Hep3B cells.

Results: Ang-1, rather than Ang-2, was more frequently expressed in the normal liver. Ang-1 was expressed in 68% of HCCs, whereas Ang-2 was expressed in 81%, and was significantly higher in poorly differentiated HCCs characterised by high vascularity (p = 0.02), and in tumours with a peliotic change (p = 0.02). Strong expression of Tie2 was seen in tumour vessels in accordance with Ang-2 expression. In Hep3B cells, hypoxic stimuli upregulated VEGF and EPO, but not Ang-1 or Ang-2.

Conclusions: These data support the evidence that the reversal of Ang-1 and Ang-2 expression plays an important role in the angiogenic and dedifferentiation processes in HCC. The hypoxic stimuli were not responsible for Ang-2 upregulation, unlike that of VEGF, in human HCC cells.

  • angiopoietin
  • Tie2
  • hypoxia
  • angiogenesis
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Ang, angiopoietin
  • EC, vascular endothelial cell
  • EPO, erythropoietin
  • HCC, hepatocellular carcinoma
  • HIF, hypoxia inducible factor
  • PC, vascular pericyte/smooth muscle cell
  • PCR, polymerase chain reaction
  • RT, reverse transcriptase
  • Tie2, tyrosine kinase with immunoglobulin and epidermal growth factor homology domains 2
  • VEGF, vascular endothelial growth factor
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