Hepatic progenitor cells (HPCs) are adult liver stem cells that act as second line of defense in liver regeneration. They are normally quiescent, but in case of severe liver damage, HPC proliferation is triggered by external activation mechanisms from their niche. Although several important proproliferative mechanisms have been described, it is not known which key intracellular regulators govern the switch between HPC quiescence and active cell cycle. We performed a high-throughput kinome small interfering RNA (siRNA) screen in HepaRG cells, a HPC-like cell line, and evaluated the effect on proliferation with a 5-ethynyl-2'-deoxyuridine (EdU) incorporation assay. One hit increased the percentage of EdU-positive cells after knockdown: dual specificity tyrosine phosphorylation regulated kinase 1A (DYRK1A). Although upon DYRK1A silencing, the percentage of EdU- and phosphorylated histone H3 (pH3)-positive cells was increased, and total cell numbers were not increased, possibly through a subsequent delay in cell cycle progression. This phenotype was confirmed with chemical inhibition of DYRK1A using harmine and with primary HPCs cultured as liver organoids. DYRK1A inhibition impaired Dimerization Partner, RB-like, E2F, and multivulva class B (DREAM) complex formation in HPCs and abolished its transcriptional repression on cell cycle progression. To further analyze DYRK1A function in HPC proliferation, liver organoid cultures were established from mBACtgDyrk1A mice, which harbor one extra copy of the murine Dyrk1a gene (Dyrk+++). Dyrk+++ organoids had both a reduced percentage of EdU-positive cells and reduced proliferation compared with wild-type organoids. This study provides evidence for an essential role of DYRK1A as balanced regulator of S-phase entry in HPCs. An exact gene dosage is crucial, as both DYRK1A deficiency and overexpression affect HPC cell cycle progression.
Keywords: DYRK1A; RNA interference screen; cell cycle; hepatic progenitor cells; proliferation.