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Genes Dev. 2006 Aug 15;20(16):2306-14.

c-Jun/AP-1 controls liver regeneration by repressing p53/p21 and p38 MAPK activity.

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Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), A-1030 Vienna, Austria.


The AP-1 transcription factor c-Jun is a key regulator of hepatocyte proliferation. Mice lacking c-Jun in the liver (c-jun (Deltali*)) display impaired liver regeneration after partial hepatectomy (PH). This phenotype correlates with increased protein levels of the cdk-inhibitor p21 in the liver. We performed PH experiments in several double-knockout mouse models to genetically identify the signaling events regulated by c-Jun. Inactivation of p53 in c-jun (Deltali*) mice abrogated both hepatocyte cell cycle block and increased p21 protein expression. Consistently, liver regeneration was rescued in c-jun (Deltali*) p21 (-/-) double-mutant mice. This indicated that c-Jun controls hepatocyte proliferation by a p53/p21-dependent mechanism. Analyses of p21 mRNA and protein expression in livers of c-jun (Deltali*) mice after PH revealed that the accumulation of p21 protein is due to a post-transcriptional/post-translational mechanism. We have investigated several candidate pathways implicated in the regulation of p21 expression, and observed increased activity of the stress kinase p38 in regenerating livers of c-jun (Deltali*) mice. Importantly, conditional deletion of p38alpha in livers of c-jun (Deltali*) mice fully restored hepatocyte proliferation and attenuated increased p21 protein levels after PH. These data demonstrate that c-Jun/AP-1 regulates liver regeneration through a novel molecular pathway that involves p53, p21, and the stress kinase p38alpha.

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