Hepatocyte-specific deletion of hepatocyte nuclear factor-4α in adult mice results in increased hepatocyte proliferation

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2013 Jan 1;304(1):G26-37. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00064.2012. Epub 2012 Oct 25.


Hepatocyte nuclear factor-4α (HNF4α) is known as the master regulator of hepatocyte differentiation. Recent studies indicate that HNF4α may inhibit hepatocyte proliferation via mechanisms that have yet to be identified. Using a HNF4α knockdown mouse model based on delivery of inducible Cre recombinase via an adeno-associated virus 8 viral vector, we investigated the role of HNF4α in the regulation of hepatocyte proliferation. Hepatocyte-specific deletion of HNF4α resulted in increased hepatocyte proliferation. Global gene expression analysis showed that a majority of the downregulated genes were previously known HNF4α target genes involved in hepatic differentiation. Interestingly, ≥500 upregulated genes were associated with cell proliferation and cancer. Furthermore, we identified potential negative target genes of HNF4α, many of which are involved in the stimulation of proliferation. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis, we confirmed binding of HNF4α at three of these genes. Furthermore, overexpression of HNF4α in mouse hepatocellular carcinoma cells resulted in a decrease in promitogenic gene expression and cell cycle arrest. Taken together, these data indicate that, apart from its role in hepatocyte differentiation, HNF4α actively inhibits hepatocyte proliferation by repression of specific promitogenic genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Capillary Electrochromatography
  • Cell Cycle / physiology
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Dependovirus / genetics
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Gene Deletion
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4 / genetics*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Liver Regeneration
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Mitosis / genetics
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4
  • Hnf4a protein, mouse