AIMS/BACKGROUND: To study the expression of the H19 gene in hepatocellular carcinoma. H19 is an imprinted, maternally expressed gene, which is tightly linked, both physically and functionally, to the paternally expressed insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF II). IGF II is known to be involved in liver carcinogenesis. H19 was first discovered in the fetal mouse liver to be under the same regulatory genes as alpha fetoprotein (alpha FP), a widely used tumour marker for hepatocellular carcinoma. METHODS: Using both radioactive and non-radioactive in situ hybridisation, the expression of the H19 gene was compared with the presence of alpha FP, as demonstrated by immunohistochemistry, in 18 cases of hepatocellular carcinoma. RESULTS: H19 expression was present in 13 of 18 cases, whereas staining for alpha FP was positive in only nine of 18 cases. Concordance was found in 12 of 18 tumours (66.7%). In general, the staining pattern for H19 was more diffuse than the immunohistochemical staining for alpha FP. CONCLUSIONS: The addition of a non-radioactive in situ hybridisation assay for H19 RNA to the panel of tumour markers used for the histopathological and cytological diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma might be useful.
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