Glypican-3 (GPC3) protein expression was determined by immunohistochemical analysis from 29 normal livers, 80 cirrhotic livers sample taken near hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and 87 cirrhotic livers without HCC. The levels for miR-657 and HCC-related gene mRNAs were determined by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). Also, a published microarray dataset was used for gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) to investigate the relationship between GPC3- and HCC-related gene signatures. Kaplan-Meier analysis was used to evaluate the relationship between GPC3 and HCC recurrence. GPC3 protein expression was not detected in any of the 29 (0%) normal livers, but was detected in 32 of 87 (37%) cirrhotic livers without HCC, and 51 of 80 (64%) cirrhotic liver samples taken near HCC sites (P <0.001). The GPC3-positive rate in cirrhotic livers of viral origin was 68% (27/40), which was significantly higher than for non-viral cirrhotic livers (11%, 5/47) (P <0.001). Also, GPC3 expression positively correlated with mRNA expression of HCC-related genes in the qRT-PCR and GSEA evaluations. Furthermore, HCC recurrence in cirrhotic liver samples taken near HCC sites was significantly higher in the GPC3-positive group than the GPC3-negative group (Log-rank P = 0.02, HR = 3.26; 95% CI = 1.20-10.29). This study demonstrated that highly expression of GPC3 could enrich HCC-related genes' mRNA expression and positive associate with dysplasia in cirrhotic livers. Therefore, GPC3 may serve as a precancerous biomarker in cirrhotic livers.
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