Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a frequent human cancer and the most frequent liver tumor. The study of genetic mechanisms of the inherited predisposition to HCC, implicating gene–gene and gene–environment interaction, led to the discovery of multiple gene loci regulating the growth and multiplicity of liver preneoplastic and neoplastic lesions, thus uncovering the action of multiple genes and epistatic interactions in the regulation of the individual susceptibility to HCC. The comparative evaluation of the molecular pathways involved in HCC development in mouse and rat strains differently predisposed to HCC indicates that the genes responsible for HCC susceptibility control the amplification and/or overexpression of c-Myc
, the expression of cell cycle regulatory genes, and the activity of Ras/Erk, AKT/mTOR, and of the pro-apoptotic Rassf1A/Nore1A and Dab2IP/Ask1 pathways, the methionine cycle, and DNA repair pathways in mice and rats. Comparative functional genetic studies, in rats and mice differently susceptible to HCC, showed that preneoplastic and neoplastic lesions of resistant mouse and rat strains cluster with human HCC with better prognosis, while the lesions of susceptible mouse and rats cluster with HCC with poorer prognosis, confirming the validity of the studies on the influence of the genetic predisposition to hepatocarinogenesis on HCC prognosis in mouse and rat models. Recently, the hydrodynamic gene transfection in mice provided new opportunities for the recognition of genes implicated in the molecular mechanisms involved in HCC pathogenesis and prognosis. This method appears to be highly promising to further study the genetic background of the predisposition to this cancer.
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