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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Phenotypic modulation of keratins, vimentin, and alpha-fetoprotein in cultured rat liver epithelial cells after chemical, oncogene, and spontaneous transformation.

Several lines of evidence have indicated that rat liver epithelial (RLE) cell lines may be related to a dormant stem cell compartment in the liver in vivo. We have demonstrated that keratin 14 (K14) is expressed together with vimentin in undifferentiated RLE cells. However, upon spontaneous transformation and differentiation to hepatoblast-like progeny the expression of these intermediate filaments (IF) is abrogated, while expression of another set of genes, among others keratin 18 (K18) and alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), is induced (Bisgaard et al., 1994, J. Cell. Physiol., in press). To better understand the mechanisms underlying IF expression during transformation and differentiation of RLE cells we examined the expression and regulation of IFs in clonal cell lines of chemically, oncogene, and spontaneously transformed RLE cells and their resulting tumors. These clonal lines provided a wide variety of tumor phenotypes including trabecular, solid and tubular adenocarcinomas, undifferentiated carcinomas, and spindle cell carcinomas. Northern blot analysis of the cell lines confirmed the differential expression of IF mRNAs. While keratin 8 (K8) was expressed at similar steady-state levels in all cell lines, K14 and vimentin but not K18 were expressed in the majority of cell lines chemically transformed with aflatoxin B1 or by transduction of oncogenes. In contrast, cell lines transformed spontaneously by prolonged passage in vitro expressed K18, while K14 and vimentin were absent. The keratin expression pattern in vitro was retained in the majority of the resulting tumors. However, the keratins expressed in vitro did not accurately predict the tumor phenotype in vivo. In particular, in tumors typed morphologically as adenocarcinomas, the keratin pair typically expressed in chemically transformed tumor cells was K8/K14, whereas K8/K18 was expressed in the tumors derived from spontaneously transformed cell lines. Finally we showed by nuclear run-on and in vitro translation analyses that the expression of K14, K18, and vimentin in transformed RLE cell lines was regulated at the transcriptional level, whereas that of K8 appeared to be posttranslational. These findings suggest that events controlling the differential expression of IF genes are involved in the processes leading to transformation and differentiation of the RLE cell lines. We conclude that the transformed RLE cell lines provide a valuable model to further examine the regulatory mechanisms involved in hepatic differentiation of undifferentiated "progenitor-like" RLE cells.[1]


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