We previously identified apolipoprotein D (Apo D) as a novel tumor suppressor gene based on the pharmacological unmasking of epigenetic silencing. We analyzed Apo D expression using real-time reverse transcription-PCR and evaluated its expression status based on the clinicopathological parameters of 70 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Immunohistochemical staining was also performed. We determined the methylation status of Apo D gene promoter by methylation-specific PCR (MSP). The Apo D gene-expression in tumor tissue was significantly lower than that in nontumor tissue (p = 0.011). A low Apo D expression significantly correlated with less-differentiated HCC (p = 0.019). Immunohistochemical studies confirmed a decreased Apo D expression in poorly differentiated tumors. The prognosis of patients with a lower Apo D gene-expression was significantly worse than that in those with a higher expression (p = 0.028). The Apo D gene-expression was an independent prognostic factor (relative risk: 2.36, p = 0.018). An MSP assay showed a low-level of methylation in well differentiated HCC and a high-level of methylation in less differentiated tumors. Apo D may be a novel tumor suppressor gene of HCC, and its expression status may be a useful biomarker for predicting the patient outcome.
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