Hepatocyte death and proliferation contribute to hepatocellular carcinoma development after carcinogen exposure or chronic liver inflammation. However, the role and the molecular targets of hepatocyte death in relation to compensatory proliferation have not been fully characterized. In this study, we investigated the role of p53 up-regulated modulator of apoptosis (PUMA), a BH3-only protein important for both p53-dependent and -independent apoptosis, in a diethylnitrosamine (DEN)-induced liver carcinogenesis model. PUMA deficiency significantly decreased the multiplicity and size of liver tumors. DEN treatment induced p53-independent PUMA expression, PUMA-dependent hepatocyte death, and compensatory proliferation. Furthermore, inhibition or deletion of c-jun N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1) abrogated PUMA induction, hepatocyte death, and compensatory proliferation.
Conclusion: These results provide direct evidence that JNK1/PUMA-dependent apoptosis promotes chemical hepatocarcinogenesis through compensatory proliferation, and suggest apoptotic inducers as potential therapeutic targets in liver injury and cancer.
Copyright © 2011 American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.