In order to characterize the genes overexpressed in an hepatoma cell line, the HTC cells, and in diethylnitrosamine induced solid hepatomas, we constructed a complementary DNA library from HTC cells and performed differential screening with probes from HTC cells, from malignant nodules obtained 70 weeks after the carcinogen treatment, and from hepatocytes from normal rat liver. Eight clones corresponding to messenger RNAs (mRNAs) much more expressed in hepatomas than in hepatocytes from normal liver were isolated. Three, clones pHT 71, pHT 13, and pHT 26, were further analyzed by the study of their corresponding transcripts in hepatocytes from regenerating liver and in the hepatocytes from the nontumorous parts of the liver.

Clone pHT 71 corresponds to a single 2.3-kilobase mRNA which is present in high levels in carcinoma nodules in hepatoma cell lines, in the nontumorous parts of the liver, and in hepatocytes isolated from regenerating liver 30 h after partial hepatectomy.

Clone pHT 13 hybridizes with three distinct transcripts 3.8, 2.6, and 1.6 kilobases long. High levels of the 3.8- and 1.6-kilobase mRNAs are present in carcinoma nodules, in hepatoma cell lines, and in the nontumorous parts of the liver. However, the levels of these RNAs are similar in hepatocytes from regenerating liver and in hepatocytes obtained from normal rat liver.

Clone pHT 26 corresponds to a 0.6-kilobase mRNA which exists at a high level only in cancer nodules and in hepatoma cell lines.

We were unable to observe any cross-hybridization between these clones and the oncogenes which have been found to be expressed in hepatomas (c-fos, c-Ha-ras, c-Ki-ras, N-ras, and c-myc).

The mRNAs corresponding to the three clones have not been detected in various tissues from normal adult rats. Our study shows that a high level of these mRNAs might be associated with rat liver carcinogenesis.

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This work was financially supported by the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

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