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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2011 Mar 1;3(3). pii: a005801. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a005801.

Hepatic fibrosis and carcinogenesis in α1-antitrypsin deficiency: a prototype for chronic tissue damage in gain-of-function disorders.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, Pennsylvania 15224, USA.


In α1-antitrypsin (AT) deficiency, a point mutation renders a hepatic secretory glycoprotein prone to misfolding and polymerization. The mutant protein accumulates in the endoplasmic reticulum of liver cells and causes hepatic fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma by a gain-of-function mechanism. Genetic and/or environmental modifiers determine whether an affected homozygote is susceptible to hepatic fibrosis/carcinoma. Two types of proteostasis mechanisms for such modifiers have been postulated: variation in the function of intracellular degradative mechanisms and/or variation in the signal transduction pathways that are activated to protect the cell from protein mislocalization and/or aggregation. In recent studies we found that carbamazepine, a drug that has been used safely as an anticonvulsant and mood stabilizer, reduces the hepatic load of mutant AT and hepatic fibrosis in a mouse model by enhancing autophagic disposal of this mutant protein. These results provide evidence that pharmacological manipulation of endogenous proteostasis mechanisms is an appealing strategy for chemoprophylaxis in disorders involving gain-of-function mechanisms.

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