Growth arrest-specific gene 6 (GAS6) promotes growth and cell survival during tissue repair and development in different organs, including the liver. However, the specific role of GAS6 in liver ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury has not been previously addressed. Here we report an early increase in serum GAS6 levels after I/R exposure. Moreover, unlike wild-type (WT) mice, Gas6(-/-) mice were highly sensitive to partial hepatic I/R, with 90% of the mice dying within 12 hours of reperfusion because of massive hepatocellular injury. I/R induced early hepatic protein kinase B (AKT) phosphorylation in WT mice but not in Gas6(-/-) mice without significant changes in c-Jun N-terminal kinase phosphorylation or nuclear factor kappa B translocation, whereas hepatic interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) messenger RNA levels were higher in Gas6(-/-) mice versus WT mice. In line with the in vivo data, in vitro studies indicated that GAS6 induced AKT phosphorylation in primary mouse hepatocytes and thus protected them from hypoxia-induced cell death, whereas GAS6 diminished lipopolysaccharide-induced cytokine expression (IL-1β and TNF) in murine macrophages. Finally, recombinant GAS6 treatment in vivo not only rescued GAS6 knockout mice from severe I/R-induced liver damage but also attenuated hepatic damage in WT mice after I/R.
Conclusion: Our data have revealed GAS6 to be a new player in liver I/R injury that is emerging as a potential therapeutic target for reducing postischemic hepatic damage.