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J Immunol. 2007 Nov 15;179(10):7042-9.

TNF pretreatment interferes with mitochondrial apoptosis in the mouse liver by A20-mediated down-regulation of Bax.

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Institute of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany.


Pretreatment with low doses of the proinflammatory cytokine TNF has been shown to prevent hepatocellular apoptosis and liver damage in inflammatory as well as in ischemia/reperfusion-induced liver injury. The underlying mechanisms of protection have not been elucidated so far. In this study, these mechanisms were investigated in murine hepatocyte cultures as well as in a mouse model of TNF-dependent apoptotic liver damage (galactosamine/TNF model). Our results show that pretreatment with TNF, or application of small-interfering RNA directed against the proapoptotic Bcl2 family member Bax, interfered with the onset of mitochondrial apoptosis in vivo. Knockdown of TNF-alpha-induced-protein 3 (A20) restored mitochondrial apoptosis, Bax expression, and liver damage. The underlying mechanism of protection seems to involve a cascade of events, where TNF induces the expression of A20 in hepatocytes, A20 down-modulates Bax expression by interference with transcriptional activation, and the reduced availability of Bax interferes with the onset of mitochondrial apoptosis and the ensuing apoptotic liver damage. In conclusion, we identified Bax and A20 as key players in TNF-induced protection from apoptotic liver damage. Because treatment with TNF itself might be a risk factor for patients, we propose that overexpression of A20 might represent an alternative approach for protection from inflammation related apoptotic liver damage, as well as for TNF preconditioning during transplantation.

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