The modifying effects of dietary administration of d,l-α-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) during initiation or postinitiation phase on the hepatocarcinogenesis initiated by diethylnitrosamine (DEN) were investigated in male F344 rats. A total of 129 animals were divided into seven groups. Groups 1–5 were given the drinking water containing 40 ppm DEN for 5 weeks, starting at 7 weeks of age. Groups 2 and 3 were fed the diets mixed with 500 and 1000 ppm DFMO, respectively, for 7 weeks, starting at 6 weeks of age. Groups 4 and 5 were given the diets containing 500 and 1000 ppm DFMO, respectively, starting 1 week after DEN exposure and maintained on these diets until the end of the study (Week 32). Rats in group 6 were fed the DFMO diet (1000 ppm) alone during the experiment. Group 7 served as an untreated control. At the end of the study, the incidences of liver cell foci (resistant iron accumulation or positive for glutathione S-transferase placental form) and hepatocellular neoplasms along with polyamine levels in the liver were measured. Also, morphometric analysis of silver-stained nucleolar organizer regions proteins as cell proliferation activity in liver cells was performed. The mean incidences and areas of foci in rats given DEN and DFMO in groups 2–5 were significantly lower than those of group 1 (P < 0.01). The frequencies of liver cell tumors in group 3 (50%), 4 (24%), and 5 (45%) were significantly reduced compared to that of group 1 (100%) (P < 0.01). The multiplicities of neoplasms in group 2 (1.15/rat), 3 (0.65/rat), 4 (0.35/rat), and 5 (0.95/rat) were significantly smaller than that of group 1 (3.34/rat) (P < 0.001). Although the polyamine levels of liver tissues among the groups showed no clear differences among the groups, the number and area of silver-stained nucleolar organizer regions proteins/nucleus in rats given DEN and DFMO (groups 2–5) were significantly lower than those of group 1. These results indicate that the feeding of DFMO during the initiation or postinitiation stage clearly inhibited DEN-induced rat hepatocarcinogenesis and that such inhibition may be due to alteration in cell proliferation activity caused by DFMO.

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