Aims: To examine the expression of extracellular matrix metalloprotease inducer (EMMPRIN) and matriptase in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and to correlate this with tumour progression. Methods and results: Immunohistochemical analysis of EMMPRIN and matriptase was performed on tissue microarrays of 122 cases of HCC with various histological grades and/or clinical parameters. The expression of EMMPRIN and matriptase was undetectable in normal liver parenchyma of all eight control cases. However, among the 122 HCC cases, EMMPRIN and matriptase immunoreactivity was seen on the cell membrane and in the cytoplasm. The average immunostaining scores of EMMPRIN were 88 for grade I HCC, 195 for grade II HCC and 293 for grade III HCC. Of 85 HCC cases in 122 with detailed clinical TNM stages, the average immunostaining scores of EMMPRIN were 75 for stage T1, 177 for stage T2, 260 for stage T3 and 313 for stage T4 cases of HCC. In addition, the average immunostaining scores of matriptase were 84 for grade I HCC, 187 for grade II HCC, 302 for grade III HCC, and 72 for stage T1, 181 for stage T2, 224 for stage T3 and 284 for stage T4 cases of HCC. More advanced M and N stages of HCC were associated with higher intensity, greater percentages of tumour staining and immunostaining scores of EMMPRIN and matriptase. Higher EMMPRIN and matriptase immunostaining scores in HCCs also correlated significantly with tumour grading and TNM stages. Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate for the first time that EMMPRIN and matriptase are overexpressed in HCC. These may be novel biomarkers for the diagnosis and treatment of HCC.
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