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BMB Rep. 2017 Jan;50(1):1-2.

Interacting network of Hippo, Wnt/β-catenin and Notch signaling represses liver tumor formation.

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Department of Developmental Biology, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, MA 02115, USA.


Acquiring a selective growth advantage by breaking the proliferation barrier established by gatekeeper genes is a centrally important event in tumor formation. Removal of the mammalian Hippo kinase Mst1 and Mst2 in hepatocytes leads to rapid hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) formation, indicating that the Hippo signaling pathway is a critical gatekeeper that restrains abnormal growth in hepatocytes. By rigorous genetic approaches, we identified an interacting network of the Hippo, Wnt/β-catenin and Notch signaling pathways that control organ size and HCC development. We found that in hepatocytes, the loss of Mst1/2 leads to the activation of Notch signaling, which forms a positive feedback loop with Yap/Taz (transcription factors controlled by Mst1/2). This positive feedback loop results in severe liver enlargement and rapid HCC formation. Blocking the Yap/Taz-Notch positive feedback loop by Notch inhibition in vivo significantly reduced the Yap/Taz activities, hepatocyte proliferation and tumor formation. Furthermore, we uncovered a surprising inhibitory role of Wnt/β-catenin signaling to Yap/Taz activities, which are important in tumor initiation. Genetic removal of β-catenin in the liver of the Mst1/2 mutants significantly accelerates tumoriogenesis. Therefore, Wnt/β-catenin signaling, known for its oncogenic property, exerts an unexpected function in restricting Yap/Taz and Notch activities in HCC initiation. The molecular interplay between the three signaling pathways identified in our study provides new insights in developing novel therapeutic strategies to treat liver tumors. [BMB Reports 2017; 50(1): 1-2].

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