Regular exercise decreases liver tumors development in hepatocyte-specific PTEN-deficient mice independently of steatosis

J Hepatol. 2015 Jun;62(6):1296-303. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2015.01.017. Epub 2015 Jan 23.


Background & aims: Unhealthy lifestyles predispose people to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which may further result in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Although NASH patients benefit from physical activity, it is unknown whether regular exercise reduces the risk of developing HCC. Therefore, we studied the effect of regular exercise on the development of HCC in male hepatocyte-specific PTEN-deficient mice (AlbCrePten(flox/flox)), which develop steatohepatitis and HCC spontaneously.

Methods: Mice were fed a standardized 10% fat diet and were randomly divided into exercise or sedentary groups. The exercise group ran on a motorized treadmill for 60 min/day, 5 days/week during 32 weeks.

Results: After 32 weeks of regular exercise, 71% of exercised mice developed nodules larger than 15 mm(3)vs. 100% of mice in the sedentary group. The mean number of tumors per liver was reduced by exercise, as well as the total tumoral volume per liver. Exercise did not affect steatosis and had no effect on the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) Activity Score (NAS). Exercise decreased tumor cell proliferation. Mechanistically, exercise stimulated the phosphorylation of AMPK and its substrate raptor, which decreased the kinase activity of mTOR.

Conclusions: These data show a beneficial effect of regular exercise on the development of HCC in an experimental model of NASH and offer a rationale for encouraging predisposed patients to increase their physical activity for the prevention of HCC.

Keywords: AMPK; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis; mTOR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Hepatocytes / pathology
  • Hepatocytes / physiology
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / etiology
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / physiopathology
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / etiology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / pathology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / physiopathology
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / deficiency*
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / genetics
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism


  • mTOR protein, mouse
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase
  • Pten protein, mouse
  • Glucose