Expression of two important glucose transporter proteins, GLUT2 (which is the typical glucose transporter in hepatocytes of adult liver) and the erythroid/brain type glucose transporter GLUT 1 (representing the typical glucose transporter in fetal liver parenchyma), was studied immunocytochemically during hepatocarcinogenesis in rats at different time points between 7 and 65 wk after cessation of 7-wk administration of 12 mg/kg of body weight of N-nitrosomorpholine p.o. (stop model). Foci of altered hepatocytes excessively storing glycogen (GSF) and mixed cell foci (MCF) composed of both glycogenotic and glycogen-poor cells were present at all time points studied. Seven wk after withdrawal of the carcinogen, GSF were the predominant type of focus of altered hepatocytes. Morphometrical evaluation of the focal lesions revealed that the number and volume fraction of GSF increased steadily until Wk 65. MCF were rare at 7 wk, increased slightly in number and size until Wk 37, but showed a pronounced elevation in their number and volume fraction from Wk 37 to Wk 65. In both GSF and MCF, GLUT 2 was generally decreased or partially absent at all time points. Consequently, foci of decreased GLUT 2 expression showed a steady increase in number and volume fraction from Wk 7 to Wk 65. GLUT 1 was lacking in GSF but occurred in some MCF from Wk 50 onward. The liver type glucose transporter GLUT 2 was decreased in all adenomas and hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC). In three of seven adenomas and 10 of 12 carcinomas, expression of GLUT 1 was increased compared with normal liver parenchyma. In two cases of adenoid HCC, cells of ductular formations coexpressed GLUT 2 and GLUT 1. In contrast, normal bile ducts, bile duct proliferations, and cystic cholangiomas expressed only GLUT 1. Seven of 12 HCC contained many microvessels intensely stained for GLUT 1, a phenomenon never observed in normal liver. Whenever adenoid tumor formations occurred, GLUT 1-positive microvessels were located in the immediate vicinity of these formations. Only in one HCC were such microvessels found in the absence of adenoid formations. Our studies indicate that a reduction of GLUT 2 expression occurs already in early preneoplastic hepatic foci and is maintained throughout hepatocarcinogenesis, including benign and malignant neoplasms. Reexpression of GLUT 1, however, appears in a few MCF and in the majority of adenomas and carcinomas.
Dedicated to Rolf Preussmann on the occasion of his 65th birthday.