Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common malignancy in men and the eighth most common in women worldwide. The eukaryotic genome is organized into highly ordered chromatin structures in the nucleus. Chromatin creates a barrier to nuclear processes, such as transcription, by obstructing the access of the transcriptional machinery and gene-specific regulators to recognition sequences within target promoters. The SWI/SNF protein complex, an ATPase-dependent chromatin remodeling enzyme, mobilizes nucleosomes and functions as a master regulator of gene expression and chromatin dynamics. SWI/SNF is a large multiprotein complex that contains either BRG1 or brahma (BRM) as the catalytic ATPase. Each SWI/SNF complex thus incorporates one of two possible ATPases, BRG1 or BRM.

Aims: To examine alterations of BRG1 and BRM in HCC.

Methods: We investigated DNA copy number aberrations in human HCC cell lines using a high-density oligonucleotide microarray. We determined DNA copy numbers and expression levels of BRG1 and BRM genes in primary HCC tumors, and conducted further searches for mutations in BRG1 and BRM genes.

Results: Homozygous deletion of the BRG1 gene was found in HCC cell line SNU398. Copy number losses of BRG1 and BRM genes were observed in 14 (26%) and 7 (13%) of 54 primary HCC tumors respectively. We found four somatic missense mutations in the BRG1 gene in two of 36 primary HCC tumors, but no mutations in BRM gene. Expression of BRM mRNA, but not BRG1 mRNA, was significantly reduced in primary HCC tumors, compared to non-tumor tissue counterparts. Immunohistochemical analyses of non-tumour liver tissues showed that BRM protein was expressed in hepatocytes and bile-duct epithelial cells, whereas BRG1 protein was expressed in bile-duct epithelial cells, but not in hepatocytes. BRM protein expression was lost in nine (22.5%) of 40 HCC tumours. Loss of BRM protein expression was significantly associated with poor overall survival.

Conclusion: Reduced expression of BRM may contribute to the carcinogenesis of HCC. Although deletions and mutations in BRG1 gene were identified, the role of BRG1 in HCC tumourigenesis remains unclear.

Citation Format: Kohichiroh Yasui, Yasuyuki Gen, Akira Tomie, Tomoko Kitaichi, Yoshito Itoh. Reduced expression of BRM in hepatocellular carcinoma. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 105th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2014 Apr 5-9; San Diego, CA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2014;74(19 Suppl):Abstract nr 5186. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2014-5186