Proliferation of human HCC cells and chemically induced mouse liver cancers requires JNK1-dependent p21 downregulation.
ABSTRACT: JNK proteins have been shown to be involved in liver carcinogenesis in mice, but the extent of their involvement in the development of human liver cancers is unknown. Here, we show that activation of JNK1 but not JNK2 was increased in human primary hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs). Further, JNK1 was required for human HCC cell proliferation in vitro and tumorigenesis after xenotransplantation. Importantly, mice lacking JNK1 displayed decreased tumor cell proliferation in a mouse model of liver carcinogenesis and decreased hepatocyte proliferation in a mouse model of liver regeneration. In both cases, impaired proliferation was caused by increased expression of p21, a cell-cycle inhibitor, and reduced expression of c-Myc, a negative regulator of p21. Genetic inactivation of p21 in JNK1-/- mice restored hepatocyte proliferation in models of both liver carcinogenesis and liver regeneration, and overexpression of c-Myc increased proliferation of JNK1-/- liver cells. Similarly, JNK1 was found to control the proliferation of human HCC cells by affecting p21 and c-Myc expression. Pharmacologic inhibition of JNK reduced the growth of both xenografted human HCC cells and chemically induced mouse liver cancers. These findings provide a mechanistic link between JNK activity and liver cell proliferation via p21 and c-Myc and suggest JNK targeting can be considered as a new therapeutic approach for HCC treatment.
Project description:A major link between inflammation and cancer is provided by NF-kappaB transcription factors. Ikkbeta(Deltahep) mice, which specifically lack IkappaB kinase beta (IKKbeta), an activator of NF-kappaB, in hepatocytes, are unable to activate NF-kappaB in response to proinflammatory stimuli, such as TNF-alpha. Surprisingly, Ikkbeta(Deltahep) mice are hypersusceptible to diethylnitrosamine (DEN)-induced hepatocarcinogenesis. Because defective NF-kappaB activation promotes sustained c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) activation in cells exposed to TNF-alpha, whose expression is induced by DEN, and JNK activity is required for normal hepatocyte proliferation, we examined whether increased susceptibility to DEN-induced hepatocarcinogenesis in Ikkbeta(Deltahep) mice requires JNK activation. Hepatocytes express both JNK1 and JNK2, but previous studies indicate that JNK1 is more important for hepatocyte proliferation. We therefore investigated this hypothesis using mice homozygous for a JNK1 deficiency either in wild-type or Ikkbeta(Deltahep) backgrounds. In both cases, mice lacking JNK1 were much less susceptible to DEN-induced hepatocarcinogenesis. This impaired tumorigenesis correlated with decreased expression of cyclin D and vascular endothelial growth factor, diminished cell proliferation, and reduced tumor neovascularization. Whereas hepatocyte-specific deletion of IKKbeta augmented DEN-induced hepatocyte death and cytokine-driven compensatory proliferation, disruption of JNK1 abrogated this response. In addition to underscoring the importance of JNK1-mediated hepatocyte death and compensatory proliferation, these results strongly suggest that the control of tissue renewal through the IKK and JNK pathways plays a key role in liver carcinogenesis.
Project description:Targeted inhibition of the c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs) has shown therapeutic potential in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (CCA)-related tumorigenesis. However, the cell-type-specific role and mechanisms triggered by JNK in liver parenchymal cells during CCA remain largely unknown. Here, we aimed to investigate the relevance of JNK1 and JNK2 function in hepatocytes in two different models of experimental carcinogenesis, the dethylnitrosamine (DEN) model and in nuclear factor kappa B essential modulator (NEMO)hepatocyte-specific knockout (?hepa) mice, focusing on liver damage, cell death, compensatory proliferation, fibrogenesis, and tumor development. Moreover, regulation of essential genes was assessed by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, immunoblottings, and immunostainings. Additionally, specific Jnk2 inhibition in hepatocytes of NEMO?hepa/JNK1?hepa mice was performed using small interfering (si) RNA (siJnk2) nanodelivery. Finally, active signaling pathways were blocked using specific inhibitors. Compound deletion of Jnk1 and Jnk2 in hepatocytes diminished hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in both the DEN model and in NEMO?hepa mice but in contrast caused massive proliferation of the biliary ducts. Indeed, Jnk1/2 deficiency in hepatocytes of NEMO?hepa (NEMO?hepa/JNK?hepa) animals caused elevated fibrosis, increased apoptosis, increased compensatory proliferation, and elevated inflammatory cytokines expression but reduced HCC. Furthermore, siJnk2 treatment in NEMO?hepa/JNK1?hepa mice recapitulated the phenotype of NEMO?hepa/JNK?hepa mice. Next, we sought to investigate the impact of molecular pathways in response to compound JNK deficiency in NEMO?hepa mice. We found that NEMO?hepa/JNK?hepa livers exhibited overexpression of the interleukin-6/signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 pathway in addition to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-rapidly accelerated fibrosarcoma (Raf)-mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK)-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) cascade. The functional relevance was tested by administering lapatinib, which is a dual tyrosine kinase inhibitor of erythroblastic oncogene B-2 (ErbB2) and EGFR signaling, to NEMO?hepa/JNK?hepa mice. Lapatinib effectively inhibited cystogenesis, improved transaminases, and effectively blocked EGFR-Raf-MEK-ERK signaling. Conclusion: We define a novel function of JNK1/2 in cholangiocyte hyperproliferation. This opens new therapeutic avenues devised to inhibit pathways of cholangiocarcinogenesis.
Project description:Chronic liver injury triggers complications such as liver fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which are associated with alterations in distinct signaling pathways. Of particular interest is the interaction between mechanisms controlled by IKKγ/NEMO, the regulatory IKK subunit, and Jnk activation for directing cell death and survival. In the present study, we aimed to define the relevance of Jnk in hepatocyte-specific NEMO knockout mice (NEMOΔhepa), a genetic model of chronic inflammatory liver injury. We generated global Jnk1-/-/NEMOΔhepa and Jnk2-/-/NEMOΔhepa mice by crossing NEMOΔhepa mice with Jnk1-/- and Jnk2-/- animals, respectively, and examined the progression of chronic liver disease. Moreover, we investigated the expression of Jnk during acute liver injury, evaluated the role of Jnk1 in bone marrow-derived cells, and analyzed the expression of NEMO and pJnk in human diseased-livers. Deletion of Jnk1 significantly aggravated the progression of liver disease, exacerbating apoptosis, compensatory proliferation and carcinogenesis in NEMOΔhepa mice. Jnk2-/-/NEMOΔhepa showed increased RIP-1 and RIP-3 expression and hepatic inflammation. Jnk1 in hematopoietic cells rather than hepatocytes had an impact on the progression of chronic liver disease in NEMOΔhepa livers. These findings are of clinical relevance since NEMO expression was down-regulated in hepatocytes of patients with HCC whereas NEMO and pJnk were expressed in a large amount of infiltrating cells. While Jnk1 is protective in NEMOΔhepa-depleted hepatocytes, Jnk1 in hematopoietic cells rather than hepatocytes is a crucial driver of hepatic injury. These results elucidate the complex function of Jnk in chronic inflammatory liver disease. Livers from global knockout mice for Jnk1 (Jnk1-/-) and Jnk2 (Jnk2-/- ), and double-knockout mice for Jnk1/NEMO (global Jnk1-/-/NEMOΔhepa) and Jnk2/NEMO (global Jnk2-/-/NEMOΔhepa), were subjected to gene expression profiling.
Project description:Mucin1 (MUC1) is a transmembrane glycoprotein that acts as an oncogene in human hepatic tumorigenesis. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells often gain advantage by reducing the tumor-suppressive activity of transforming growth factor beta (TGF-?) together with stimulation of its oncogenic activity as in MUC1 expressing HCC cells; however, molecular mechanisms remain largely unknown. Type I TGF-? receptor (T?RI) and c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) differentially phosphorylate Smad3 mediator to create 2 phosphorylated forms: COOH-terminally phosphorylated Smad3 (pSmad3C) and linker-phosphorylated Smad3 (pSmad3L). Here, we report that MUC1 overexpression in HCC cell lines suppresses T?RI-mediated pSmad3C signaling which involves growth inhibition by up-regulating p21(WAF1). Instead, MUC1 directly activates JNK to stimulate oncogenic pSmad3L signaling, which fosters cell proliferation by up-regulating c-Myc. Conversely, MUC1 gene silencing in MUC1 expressing HCC cells results in preserved tumor-suppressive function via pSmad3C, while eliminating pSmad3L-mediated oncogenic activity both in vitro and in vivo. In addition, high correlation between MUC1 and pSmad3L/c-Myc but not pSmad3C/p21(WAF1) expression was observed in HCC tissues from patients. Collectively, these results indicate that MUC1 shifts Smad3 signaling from a tumor-suppressive pSmad3C/p21(WAF1) to an oncogenic pSmad3L/c-Myc pathway by directly activating JNK in HCC cells, suggesting that MUC1 is an important target for HCC therapy.
Project description:Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a deadly human cancer associated with chronic inflammation. The cytosolic pathogen sensor NLRP12 has emerged as a negative regulator of inflammation, but its role in HCC is unknown. Here we investigated the role of NLRP12 in HCC using mouse models of HCC induced by carcinogen diethylnitrosamine (DEN). Nlrp12-/- mice were highly susceptible to DEN-induced HCC with increased inflammation, hepatocyte proliferation, and tumor burden. Consistently, Nlrp12-/- tumors showed higher expression of proto-oncogenes cJun and cMyc and downregulation of tumor suppressor p21. Interestingly, antibiotics treatment dramatically diminished tumorigenesis in Nlrp12-/- mouse livers. Signaling analyses demonstrated higher JNK activation in Nlrp12-/- HCC and cultured hepatocytes during stimulation with microbial pattern molecules. JNK inhibition or NLRP12 overexpression reduced proliferative and inflammatory responses of Nlrp12-/- hepatocytes. In summary, NLRP12 negatively regulates HCC pathogenesis via downregulation of JNK-dependent inflammation and proliferation of hepatocytes.
Project description:Hepatocyte death and proliferation contribute to hepatocellular carcinoma development after carcinogen exposure or chronic liver inflammation. However, the role and the molecular targets of hepatocyte death in relation to compensatory proliferation have not been fully characterized. In this study, we investigated the role of p53 up-regulated modulator of apoptosis (PUMA), a BH3-only protein important for both p53-dependent and -independent apoptosis, in a diethylnitrosamine (DEN)-induced liver carcinogenesis model. PUMA deficiency significantly decreased the multiplicity and size of liver tumors. DEN treatment induced p53-independent PUMA expression, PUMA-dependent hepatocyte death, and compensatory proliferation. Furthermore, inhibition or deletion of c-jun N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1) abrogated PUMA induction, hepatocyte death, and compensatory proliferation.These results provide direct evidence that JNK1/PUMA-dependent apoptosis promotes chemical hepatocarcinogenesis through compensatory proliferation, and suggest apoptotic inducers as potential therapeutic targets in liver injury and cancer.
Project description:c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) 1 and JNK2 are expressed in hepatocytes and have overlapping and distinct functions. JNK proteins are activated via phosphorylation in response to acetaminophen- or carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)-induced liver damage; the level of activation correlates with the degree of injury. SP600125, a JNK inhibitor, has been reported to block acetaminophen-induced liver injury. We investigated the role of JNK in drug-induced liver injury (DILI) in liver tissue from patients and in mice with genetic deletion of JNK in hepatocytes.We studied liver sections from patients with DILI (due to acetaminophen, phenprocoumon, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or autoimmune hepatitis) or patients without acute liver failure (controls) collected from a DILI Biobank in Germany. Levels of total and activated (phosphorylated) JNK were measured by immunohistochemistry and Western blotting. Mice with hepatocyte-specific deletion of Jnk1 (Jnk1(?hepa)) or combination of Jnk1 and Jnk2 (Jnk(?hepa)), as well as Jnk1-floxed C57BL/6 (control) mice, were given injections of CCl4 (to induce fibrosis) or acetaminophen (to induce toxic liver injury). We performed gene expression microarray and phosphoproteomic analyses to determine mechanisms of JNK activity in hepatocytes.Liver samples from DILI patients contained more activated JNK, predominantly in nuclei of hepatocytes and in immune cells, than healthy tissue. Administration of acetaminophen to Jnk(?hepa) mice produced a greater level of liver injury than that observed in Jnk1(?hepa) or control mice, based on levels of serum markers and microscopic and histologic analysis of liver tissues. Administration of CCl4 also induced stronger hepatic injury in Jnk(?hepa) mice, based on increased inflammation, cell proliferation, and fibrosis progression, compared with Jnk1(?hepa) or control mice. Hepatocytes from Jnk(?hepa) mice given acetaminophen had an increased oxidative stress response, leading to decreased activation of adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase, total protein adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase levels, and pJunD and subsequent necrosis. Administration of SP600125 before or with acetaminophen protected Jnk(?hepa) and control mice from liver injury.In hepatocytes, JNK1 and JNK2 appear to have combined effects in protecting mice from CCl4- and acetaminophen-induced liver injury. It is important to study the tissue-specific functions of both proteins, rather than just JNK1, in the onset of toxic liver injury. JNK inhibition with SP600125 shows off-target effects.
Project description:The NF-kappaB activating kinase IKKbeta suppresses early chemically induced liver tumorigenesis by inhibiting hepatocyte death and compensatory proliferation. To study IKKbeta's role in late tumor promotion and progression, we developed a transplant system that allows initiated mouse hepatocytes to form hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC) in host liver after a long latency. Deletion of IKKbeta long after initiation accelerated HCC development and enhanced proliferation of tumor initiating cells. These effects of IKKbeta/NF-kappaB were cell autonomous and correlated with increased accumulation of reactive oxygen species that led to JNK and STAT3 activation. Hepatocyte-specific STAT3 ablation prevented HCC development. The negative crosstalk between NF-kappaB and STAT3, which is also evident in human HCC, is a critical regulator of liver cancer development and progression.
Project description:BACKGROUND & AIMS:LIM-domain-binding (Ldb) proteins have been demonstrated to be essential not only to key embryonic developmental processes but also to carcinogenesis. We have previously demonstrated Ldb1 to be of high biological and developmental relevance, as a targeted deletion of the Ldb1 gene in mice results in an embryonic lethal and pleiotropic phenotype. METHODS:We have now established a liver-specific Ldb1 knock out to investigate the role of Ldb1 in carcinogenesis, in particular in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development, in vivo. RESULTS:These mice demonstrated a significantly enhanced growth of liver cancer by means of tumor size and number, advocating for an essential role of Ldb1 in HCC development. In addition, proliferation and resistance against apoptosis were increased. In order to identify the functional disturbances due to a lack of Ldb1, we performed a 15k mouse gene microarray expression analysis. We found the Myc oncogene to be regulated in the microarray analysis and were able to further confirm this regulation by demonstrating an over-expression of its downstream target Cyclin D1. Furthermore, we were able to demonstrate a down-regulation of the tumor suppressor p21. Finally, the liver stem cell marker EpCAM was also identified to be over expressed in Ldb1(-/-) knock out mice. CONCLUSIONS:We have established a significant role of Ldb1 in cancer development. Furthermore, we provided evidence for a myc/cyclin D1, p21, and EpCAM-dependent signalling to be key downstream regulators of this novel concept in HCC development.
Project description:Hepatocyte I kappaB kinase beta (IKK beta) inhibits hepatocarcinogenesis by suppressing accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and liver damage, whereas JNK1 activation promotes ROS accumulation, liver damage, and carcinogenesis. We examined whether hepatocyte p38 alpha, found to inhibit liver carcinogenesis, acts similarly to IKK beta in control of ROS metabolism and cell death. Hepatocyte-specific p38 alpha ablation enhanced ROS accumulation and liver damage, which were prevented upon administration of an antioxidant. In addition to elevated ROS accumulation, hepatocyte death, augmented by loss of either IKK beta or p38 alpha, was associated with release of IL-1 alpha. Inhibition of IL-1 alpha action or ablation of its receptor inhibited carcinogen-induced compensatory proliferation and liver tumorigenesis. IL-1 alpha release by necrotic hepatocytes is therefore an important mediator of liver tumorigenesis.