Dysregulation of apoptosis by c-myc in transgenic hepatocytes and effects of growth factors and nongenotoxic carcinogens

Mol Carcinog. 1999 Aug;25(4):273-84.


Regulation of apoptosis is an important component of multistage hepatocarcinogenesis. The proto-oncogene c-myc has been shown to be important in apoptosis regulation and to be amplified and overexpressed in human and rodent liver neoplasia. The objectives of the study reported here were to determine whether apoptosis regulation is altered in transgenic hepatocytes that overexpress c-myc and whether growth factors or nongenotoxic carcinogens alter apoptosis regulation in c-myc versus wild-type hepatocytes. Hepatocytes isolated from c-myc transgenic mice had four fold more c-myc RNA and protein (at 12-48 h) in addition to increased apoptosis levels compared with wild-type hepatocytes. The increased apoptosis in c-myc hepatocytes was accompanied by increased p53, bax, and bak and decreased bcl-2 protein levels. Hepatocytes overexpressing c-myc were more sensitive to apoptosis induced by bleomycin but less sensitive to apoptosis induced by transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta. Phenobarbital, a potent liver tumor promoter, inhibited apoptosis in c-myc hepatocytes but not in wild-type hepatocytes, decreased p53 and bax, and increased bcl-2 protein levels. Nafenopin inhibited apoptosis in both c-myc and wild-type hepatocytes, whereas 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-pdioxin did not inhibit apoptosis in either wild-type or c-myc hepatocytes. TGF-alpha inhibited apoptosis and increased bcl-X(L) and decreased bak protein levels in c-myc hepatocytes but not in wild-type hepatocytes. Insulin-like growth factor-II did not affect apoptosis in c-myc or wild-type hepatocytes. In this study, overexpression of c-myc altered the response to apoptotic stimuli in transgenic hepatocytes. Furthermore, phenobarbital and TGF-alpha inhibited c-myc-induced apoptosis, which may have resulted in a selective growth advantage for an initiated cell population and which may be a mechanism for tumor promotion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Bleomycin / pharmacology
  • Carcinogens / pharmacology*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Genes, myc*
  • Humans
  • Liver / cytology*
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Phenobarbital / pharmacology
  • Proto-Oncogene Mas
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor alpha / pharmacology*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / pharmacology*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism


  • Carcinogens
  • MAS1 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Mas
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Transforming Growth Factor alpha
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Bleomycin
  • Phenobarbital