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Mol Endocrinol. 2010 Mar;24(3):667-78. doi: 10.1210/me.2009-0454. Epub 2010 Feb 11.

Intrinsic sex differences in the early growth hormone responsiveness of sex-specific genes in mouse liver.

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Division of Cell and Molecular Biology, Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Sex differences in liver gene expression are dictated by sex differences in circulating GH profiles. Presently, the pituitary hormone dependence of mouse liver gene expression was investigated on a global scale to discover sex-specific early GH response genes that could contribute to sex-specific regulation of downstream GH targets and to ascertain whether intrinsic sex differences characterize hepatic responses to plasma GH stimulation. Global RNA expression analysis identified two distinct classes of sex-specific mouse liver genes: genes subject to positive regulation (class I) and genes subject to negative regulation by pituitary hormones (class II). Genes activated or repressed in hypophysectomized (Hypox) mouse liver within 30-90 min of GH pulse treatment at a physiological dose were identified as putative direct targets of GH action (early response genes). Intrinsic sex differences in the GH responsiveness of a subset of these early response genes were observed. Notably, 45 male-specific genes, including five encoding transcriptional regulators that may mediate downstream sex-specific transcriptional responses, were induced by GH within 30 min in Hypox male but not Hypox female mouse liver. The early GH response genes were enriched in 29 male-specific targets of the transcription factor myocyte enhancer factor 2, whose activation in hepatic stellate cells is associated with liver fibrosis leading to hepatocellular carcinoma, a male-predominant disease. Thus, the rapid activation by GH pulses of certain sex-specific genes is modulated by intrinsic sex-specific factors, which may be associated with prior hormone exposure (epigenetic mechanisms) or genetic factors that are pituitary-independent, and could contribute to sex differences in predisposition to liver cancer or other hepatic patho-physiologies.

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