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Hepatology. 2010 May;51(5):1603-13. doi: 10.1002/hep.23538.

Accelerated liver regeneration and hepatocarcinogenesis in mice overexpressing serine-45 mutant beta-catenin.

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Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, USA.


The Wnt/beta-catenin pathway is implicated in the pathogenesis of hepatocellular cancer (HCC). We developed a transgenic mouse (TG) in the FVB strain that overexpresses Ser45-mutated-beta-catenin in hepatocytes to study the effects on liver regeneration and cancer. In the two independent TG lines adult mice show elevated beta-catenin at hepatocyte membrane with no increase in the Wnt pathway targets cyclin-D1 or glutamine synthetase. However, TG hepatocytes upon culture exhibit a 2-fold increase in thymidine incorporation at day 5 (D5) when compared to hepatocytes from wildtype FVB mice (WT). When subjected to partial hepatectomy (PH), dramatic increases in the number of hepatocytes in S-phase are evident in TG at 40 and WT at 72 hours. Coincident with the earlier onset of proliferation, we observed nuclear translocation of beta-catenin along with an increase in total and nuclear cyclin-D1 protein at 40 hours in TG livers. To test if stimulation of beta-catenin induces regeneration, we used hydrodynamic delivery of Wnt-1 naked DNA to control mice, which prompted an increase in Wnt-1, beta-catenin, and known targets, glutamine synthetase (GS) and cyclin-D1, along with a concomitant increase in cell proliferation. beta-Catenin-overexpressing TG mice, when followed up to 12 months, showed no signs of spontaneous tumorigenesis. However, intraperitoneal delivery of diethylnitrosamine (DEN), a known carcinogen, induced HCC at 6 months in TG mice only. Tumors in TG livers showed up-regulation of beta-catenin, cyclin-D1, and unique genetic aberrations, whereas other canonical targets were unremarkable.


beta-Catenin overexpression offers growth advantage during liver regeneration. Also, whereas no spontaneous HCC is evident, beta-catenin overexpression makes TG mice susceptible to DEN-induced HCC.

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