Sequential Functions of CPEB1 and CPEB4 Regulate Pathologic Expression of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor and Angiogenesis in Chronic Liver Disease

Gastroenterology. 2016 Apr;150(4):982-97.e30. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2015.11.038. Epub 2015 Nov 26.


Background & aims: Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) regulates angiogenesis, yet therapeutic strategies to disrupt VEGF signaling can interfere with physiologic angiogenesis. In a search for ways to inhibit pathologic production or activities of VEGF without affecting its normal production or functions, we investigated the post-transcriptional regulation of VEGF by the cytoplasmic polyadenylation element-binding proteins CPEB1 and CPEB4 during development of portal hypertension and liver disease.

Methods: We obtained transjugular liver biopsies from patients with hepatitis C virus-associated cirrhosis or liver tissues removed during transplantation; healthy human liver tissue was obtained from a commercial source (control). We also performed experiments with male Sprague-Dawley rats and CPEB-deficient mice (C57BL6 or mixed C57BL6/129 background) and their wild-type littermates. Secondary biliary cirrhosis was induced in rats by bile duct ligation, and portal hypertension was induced by partial portal vein ligation. Liver and mesenteric tissues were collected and analyzed in angiogenesis, reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, polyA tail, 3' rapid amplification of complementary DNA ends, Southern blot, immunoblot, histologic, immunohistochemical, immunofluorescence, and confocal microscopy assays. CPEB was knocked down with small interfering RNAs in H5V endothelial cells, and translation of luciferase reporters constructs was assessed.

Results: Activation of CPEB1 promoted alternative nuclear processing within noncoding 3'-untranslated regions of VEGF and CPEB4 messenger RNAs in H5V cells, resulting in deletion of translation repressor elements. The subsequent overexpression of CPEB4 promoted cytoplasmic polyadenylation of VEGF messenger RNA, increasing its translation; the high levels of VEGF produced by these cells led to their formation of tubular structures in Matrigel assays. We observed increased levels of CPEB1 and CPEB4 in cirrhotic liver tissues from patients, compared with control tissue, as well as in livers and mesenteries of rats and mice with cirrhosis or/and portal hypertension. Mice with knockdown of CPEB1 or CPEB4 did not overexpress VEGF or have signs of mesenteric neovascularization, and developed less-severe forms of portal hypertension after portal vein ligation.

Conclusions: We identified a mechanism of VEGF overexpression in liver and mesentery that promotes pathologic, but not physiologic, angiogenesis, via sequential and nonredundant functions of CPEB1 and CPEB4. Regulation of CPEB4 by CPEB1 and the CPEB4 autoamplification loop induces pathologic angiogenesis. Strategies to block the activities of CPEBs might be developed to treat chronic liver and other angiogenesis-dependent diseases.

Keywords: Alternative RNA Processing; CPEB; Cytoplasmic Polyadenylation; Portal Hypertension.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cell Line
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Portal / genetics
  • Hypertension, Portal / metabolism*
  • Hypertension, Portal / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / metabolism*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / virology
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / genetics
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / metabolism*
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice, 129 Strain
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Middle Aged
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic*
  • Polyadenylation
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Signal Transduction
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription Factors / deficiency
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transfection
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism*
  • mRNA Cleavage and Polyadenylation Factors / deficiency
  • mRNA Cleavage and Polyadenylation Factors / genetics
  • mRNA Cleavage and Polyadenylation Factors / metabolism*


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • CPEB1 protein, human
  • CPEB1 protein, rat
  • CPEB4 protein, human
  • CPEB4 protein, rat
  • Cpeb1 protein, mouse
  • Cpeb4 protein, mouse
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • VEGFA protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • mRNA Cleavage and Polyadenylation Factors
  • vascular endothelial growth factor A, mouse
  • vascular endothelial growth factor A, rat