This review critically discusses the most recent advances in the role of Notch signaling in liver development, homeostasis, and disease. It is now clear that the significance of Notch in determining mammalian cell fates and functions extends beyond development, and Notch is a major regular of organ homeostasis. Moreover, Notch signaling is reactivated upon injury and regulates the complex interactions between the distinct liver cell types involved in the repair process. Notch is also involved in the regulation of liver metabolism, inflammation, and cancer. The net effects of Notch signaling are highly variable and finely regulated at multiple levels, but also depend on the specific cellular context in which Notch is activated. Persistent activation of Notch signaling is associated with liver malignancies, such as hepatocellular carcinoma with stem cell features and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. The complexity of the pathway provides several possible targets for agents able to inhibit Notch. However, further cell- and context-specific in-depth understanding of Notch signaling in liver homeostasis and disease will be essential to translate these concepts into clinical practice and be able to predict benefits and risks of evolving therapies.
© 2014 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.