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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Oct 23;104(43):17105-10. Epub 2007 Oct 16.

Hepatocyte survival in acute hepatitis is due to c-Jun/AP-1-dependent expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase.

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Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, Doktor Bohr Gasse 7, A-1030 Vienna, Austria.


Analysis of the molecular factors determining hepatocyte survival or death in response to inflammatory stimuli is essential for understanding the pathogenesis of inflammatory liver disease and for identifying novel therapeutic approaches. c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) is a major mediator of cytokine-induced cell death during hepatitis, but the signaling pathways downstream of JNK remain less well defined. Here we show that the transcription factor c-Jun/AP-1, a prototypic target of JNK, is strongly expressed in the liver of patients with acute liver injury. The molecular function of c-Jun in inflammatory liver disease was analyzed in mice by using the Con A model of T cell-mediated hepatitis. Mice lacking c-Jun in hepatocytes display increased liver cell death and mortality upon Con A injection. This phenotype is caused by impaired expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (nos2), a direct transcriptional target of c-Jun, and reduced production of hepatoprotective nitric oxide (NO). Moreover, increased hepatotoxicity in mutant mice is likely caused by hypoxia and oxidative stress and can be rescued pharmacologically by liver-specific NO delivery. These findings demonstrate that c-Jun/AP-1 is hepatoprotective during acute hepatitis by regulating nos2/NO expression and thus functionally antagonizes the cell death-promoting functions of JNK.

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