Objective: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is characterized by a multistage process of tumor progression. This study addressed its molecular features to identify novel protein candidates involved in HCC progression. Methods: Using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, proteomes of 4 early HCCs and 4 non-HCC tissues derived from 2 cases of liver transplant surgery were compared with respect to the separation profiles of their tryptic peptides. Immunohistochemistry was performed on 106 HCC nodules to confirm the results of the proteomic analysis. Results: Statistical analysis of the profiles selected the peptide peaks differentiating HCC from non-HCC. A database search of the tandem mass spectrometry data from those peptide peaks identified 61 proteins, including a cytoskeletal protein, talin-1, as upregulated in HCC. Talin-1 expression levels in HCC nodules were significantly associated with the dedifferentiation of HCC (p = 0.001). A follow-up survey of the examined clinical cases revealed a correlation between talin-1 upregulation and a shorter time to recurrence after resection (p = 0.039), which may be related to the higher rate of portal vein invasion in HCCs with talin-1 up-regulation (p = 0.029). Conclusions: Proteomic analysis led to identification of talin-1 as a promising HCC marker. Talin-1 upregulation is associated with HCC progression and may serve as a prognostic marker.
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