Bromodomain and extraterminal (BET) proteins recruit key components of basic transcriptional machinery to promote gene expression. Aberrant expression and mutations in BET genes have been identified in many malignancies. Small molecule inhibitors of BET proteins such as JQ1 have shown efficacy in preclinical cancer models, including affecting growth of hepatocellular carcinoma. BET proteins also regulate cell proliferation in nontumor settings. We recently showed that BET proteins regulate cholangiocyte-driven liver regeneration. Here, we studied the role of BET proteins in hepatocyte-driven liver regeneration in partial hepatectomy (PHx) and acetaminophen-induced liver injury models in mice and zebrafish. JQ1 was injected 2 or 16 hours after PHx in mice to determine effect on hepatic injury, regeneration, and signaling. Mice treated with JQ1 after PHx displayed increased liver injury and a near-complete inhibition of hepatocyte proliferation. Levels of Ccnd1 mRNA and Cyclin D1 protein were reduced in animals injected with JQ1 16 hours after PHx and were even further reduced in animals injected with JQ1 2 hours after PHx. JQ1-treated zebrafish larvae after acetaminophen-induced injury also displayed notably impaired hepatocyte proliferation. In both models, Wnt signaling was prominently suppressed by JQ1. Our results show that BET proteins regulate hepatocyte proliferation-driven liver regeneration, and Wnt signaling is particularly sensitive to BET protein inhibition.
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