Fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling mediates cell-to-cell communication in development and organ homeostasis in adults. Of the four FGF receptor (FGFR) tyrosine kinases, only FGFR4 is expressed in mature hepatocytes. Although FGFR1 is expressed by hepatic cell progenitors and adult nonparenchymal cells, ectopic expression is commonly observed in hepatoma cells. Here, we determined whether ectopic FGFR1 is a cause or consequence of hepatocellular carcinoma by targeting a constitutively active human FGFR1 to mouse hepatocytes. Livers of transgenic mice exhibited accelerated regeneration after partial hepatectomy but no signs of neoplastic or preneoplastic abnormalities for up to 18 months. However, in diethylnitrosamine-treated mice, the chronic FGFR1 activity promoted an incidence of 44% adenomas at 4 months and 38% hepatocellular carcinoma at 8 months. No adenoma or hepatocellular carcinoma was observed in diethylnitrosamine-treated wild-type (WT) livers at 4 or 8 months, respectively. At 10 and 12 months, tumor-bearing livers in transgenic mice were twice the size of those in WT animals. Isolated hepatoma cells from the transgenic tumors exhibited a growth advantage in culture. Advanced hepatocellular carcinoma in the transgenic livers exhibited a reduced rate of necrosis. This was accompanied by a mean microvessel density of 2.7 times that of WT tumors and a markedly higher level of vascular endothelial growth factor. In cooperation with an initiator, the persistent activity of ectopic FGFR1 in hepatocytes is a strong promoter of hepatocellular carcinoma by driving cell proliferation at early stages and promoting neoangiogenesis at late stages of progression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research