Elucidating the mechanism of liver tumor growth and metastasis after hepatic ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury of a small liver remnant will lay the foundation for the development of therapeutic strategies to target small liver remnant injury, and will reduce the likelihood of tumor recurrence after major hepatectomy or liver transplantation for liver cancer patients. In the current study, we aimed to investigate the effect of hepatic I/R injury of a small liver remnant on liver tumor development and metastases, and to explore the precise molecular mechanisms. A rat liver tumor model that underwent partial hepatic I/R injury with or without major hepatectomy was investigated. Liver tumor growth and metastases were compared among the groups with different surgical stress. An orthotopic liver tumor nude mice model was used to further confirm the invasiveness of the tumor cells from the above rat liver tumor model. Significant tumor growth and intrahepatic metastasis (5 of 6 vs. 0 of 6, P = 0.015), and lung metastasis (5 of 6 vs. 0 of 6, P = 0.015) were found in rats undergoing I/R and major hepatectomy compared with the control group, and was accompanied by upregulation of mRNA levels for Cdc42, ROCK (Rho kinase), and vascular endothelial growth factor, as well as activation of hepatic stellate cells. Most of the nude mice implanted with liver tumor from rats under I/R injury and major hepatectomy developed intrahepatic and lung metastases. In conclusion, hepatic I/R injury of a small liver remnant exacerbated liver tumor growth and metastasis by marked activation of cell adhesion, invasion, and angiogenesis pathways.
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