In continuation of earlier studies on murine neoplastic liver lesions, we characterized by histochemical methods the phenotype of hepatocellular adenomas and carcinomas induced by single injections of diethylnitrosamine (1.25, 2.5, or 5.0 µg/g of body weight) in 15-day-old C57BL/6 × male C3H F1 mice.

The hepatocellular adenomas were composed predominantly of basophilic cells but stored excessive amounts of fat and glycogen in large portions of the tumors. Irrespective of the carcinogenic dose, the adenomas showed a consistent histochemical pattern. Glycogen synthase and phosphorylase were highly active in the hepatocytes that stored glycogen. In cells poor in, or free of, this polysaccharide, these enzymes were only moderately active or even inactive. In glycogen-storing parts of the adenomas, the activity of adenylate cyclase was reduced compared with normal liver parenchyma, but in fat-storing portions it was elevated. In a few adenomas, uniform increase in adenylate cyclase activity could be encountered. The levels of ATPase, acid phosphatase, and glucose-6-phosphatase were either increased or decreased. Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase showed an increased activity in all adenomas compared with preneoplastic foci, which in turn exhibited a higher glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase activity than the surrounding parenchyma or the liver of untreated controls.

The hepatocellular carcinomas showed remarkable histochemical changes compared with adenomas. The levels of fat and glycogen and the activities of glycogen synthase, phosphorylase, and in most cases also that of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, were reduced significantly. In contrast, adenylate cyclase, glucose-6-phosphatase, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, and also alkaline phosphatase showed a striking elevation in developing carcinomas. Similar, although more pronounced, histochemical changes were seen in the advanced hepatocellular carcinomas. These observations indicated that progression from adenomas to hepatocellular carcinomas was associated with a change in the activity of several enzymes involved in cell membrane function, glycogen metabolism, the oxidative pentose phosphate pathway, and glycolysis.


This work was supported in part by the National Cancer Institute Grant CA-25522. H. Mtiro was a guest research scientist of the German Cancer Research Center.

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