Increased liver carcinogenesis and enrichment of stem cell properties in livers of Dickkopf 2 (Dkk2) deleted mice

Thorsten Maass, Jens Marquardt, Ju Seog Lee, Markus Krupp, Peter Scholz-Kreisel, Carolin Mogler, Peter Schirmacher, Martina Müller, Heiner Westphal, Peter R. Galle, Andreas Teufel*

*Corresponding author for this work
3 Citations (Scopus)


Dkk2 a antagonist of the Wnt/β-catenin-signaling pathway was shown to be silenced in diverse cancers. More recent data indicate that Dkk family members may also possess functions independent of Wnt-signaling during carcinogenesis. The detailed biological function of Dkks and its relevance for liver cancer is unknown. We analyzed the effects of a genetic deletion of Dkk2 (Dkk2-/-) in a hepatocarcinogenesismodel using DEN/Phenobarbital. Untreated Dkk2-/- animals, showed considerable atypia with variation of hepatocytesize and chromatin density. In livers of Dkk2-/- mice nodule formation was seen at 9 months of age with focal loss of trabecular architecture and atypical hepatocytes and after DEN induction Dkk2-/- mice developed significantly more livertumors compared to controls. Whole transcriptome analysis of untreated Dkk2-/- livertissue revealed a Dkk2-dependent genetic network involving Wnt/β-Catenin but also multiple additional oncogenic factors, such as e.g. Pdgf-b, Gdf-15 and Hnf4a. Dkk2-/- tumorcells showed a significant deregulation of stemness genes associated with enhanced colony forming properties. Integration of the Dkk2-/- signature into human data was strongly associated with patients survival. Dkk2 deletion results in alterations of liver morphology leading to an increased frequency of livercancer. The associated genetic changes included factors not primarily related to Wnt/β-Catenin-signaling and correlated with the clinical outcome of HCC-patients.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number20
Pages (from-to)28903-28913
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 17.05.2016


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