To identify the genes responsible for carcinogenesis and progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), we screened differentially expressed genes in several human HCC cell lines. Among these genes, Gpr49 was up-regulated in PLC/PRF/5 and HepG2. Gpr49 is a member of the glycoprotein hormone receptor subfamily, which includes the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor (TSHR). However, Gpr49 remains to be an orphan G-protein-coupled receptor. By real-time quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis, overexpression (>3-fold increase compared with the corresponding noncancerous liver tissue) of Gpr49 mRNA was observed in 18 of 38 (47%) HCCs compared with corresponding noncancerous livers. Clinicopathologically, overexpression of Gpr49 was frequently observed in HCC with mutation in β-catenin exon 3 (14 of 16 cases, 87.5%). Moreover, introduction of mutant β-catenin into mouse hepatocytes in culture caused up-regulation of the Gpr49 mouse homologue. Therefore, Gpr49 is likely to be a target gene activated by Wnt-signaling in HCC. In conclusion, although much is still unknown, Gpr49 may be critically involved in the development of HCCs with β-catenin mutations and has the potential to be a new therapeutic target in the treatment of HCC.
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