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Open Access Brief communication

Short-term arginine deprivation results in large-scale modulation of hepatic gene expression in both normal and tumor cells: microarray bioinformatic analysis

Hwei Xian Leong1, Carl Simkevich2, Anne Lesieur-Brooks1, Bonnie W Lau3, Celine Fugere1, Edmond Sabo3 and Nancy L Thompson1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Hematology and Oncology, Dept. of Medicine, Rhode Island Hospital – Brown Medical School, Providence, RI, USA

2 COBRE Center for Genetics and Genomics, Division of Biology and Medicine, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA

3 Dept. Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Rhode Island Hospital – Brown Medical School, Providence, RI, USA

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Nutrition & Metabolism 2006, 3:37  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-3-37

Published: 8 September 2006

Abstract

Background

We have reported arginine-sensitive regulation of LAT1 amino acid transporter (SLC 7A5) in normal rodent hepatic cells with loss of arginine sensitivity and high level constitutive expression in tumor cells. We hypothesized that liver cell gene expression is highly sensitive to alterations in the amino acid microenvironment and that tumor cells may differ substantially in gene sets sensitive to amino acid availability. To assess the potential number and classes of hepatic genes sensitive to arginine availability at the RNA level and compare these between normal and tumor cells, we used an Affymetrix microarray approach, a paired in vitro model of normal rat hepatic cells and a tumorigenic derivative with triplicate independent replicates. Cells were exposed to arginine-deficient or control conditions for 18 hours in medium formulated to maintain differentiated function.

Results

Initial two-way analysis with a p-value of 0.05 identified 1419 genes in normal cells versus 2175 in tumor cells whose expression was altered in arginine-deficient conditions relative to controls, representing 9–14% of the rat genome. More stringent bioinformatic analysis with 9-way comparisons and a minimum of 2-fold variation narrowed this set to 56 arginine-responsive genes in normal liver cells and 162 in tumor cells. Approximately half the arginine-responsive genes in normal cells overlap with those in tumor cells. Of these, the majority was increased in expression and included multiple growth, survival, and stress-related genes. GADD45, TA1/LAT1, and caspases 11 and 12 were among this group. Previously known amino acid regulated genes were among the pool in both cell types. Available cDNA probes allowed independent validation of microarray data for multiple genes. Among genes downregulated under arginine-deficient conditions were multiple genes involved in cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism. Expression of low-density lipoprotein receptor was decreased in both normal and tumor cells.

Conclusion

Arginine-sensitive regulation appears to be an important homeostatic mechanism to coordinate cell response and nutrient availability in hepatic cells. Genes predicted as arginine-responsive in stringent microarray data analysis were confirmed by Northern blot and RT-PCR. Although the profile of arginine-responsive genes is altered and increased, a considerable portion of the "arginome" is maintained upon neoplastic transformation.