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Overexpression of transforming growth factor-alpha causes liver enlargement and increased hepatocyte proliferation in transgenic mice.

  • Webber, E M
  • Wu, J C
  • Wang, L
  • Merlino, G
  • Fausto, N
Published Article
The American journal of pathology
Publication Date
Aug 01, 1994
PMID: 8053497


Transforming growth factor-alpha (TGF-alpha) expression is associated with hepatocyte DNA replication both in vivo and in culture. Our previous work using TGF-alpha transgenic mice showed that constitutive overexpression of this growth factor in the liver causes hepatic tumors in 75 to 80% of the animals at 12 to 15 months of age. To understand the cellular events by which TGF-alpha overexpression leads to abnormal liver growth, we examined hepatocyte proliferative activity in young and old TGF-alpha transgenic mice and hepatocyte ploidy in normal, dysplastic, and neoplastic livers of these animals. At 4 weeks of age, transgenic mice had higher liver weights and liver weight/body weight ratios than non-transgenic mice of the same age and hepatocyte proliferative activity, measured by 3H-thymidine incorporation after 3- and 7-day infusion, proliferating cell nuclear antigen staining, and mitotic index determination, was 2 to 3 times higher than in controls. In both transgenic and non-transgenic mice hepatocyte proliferation declined with age but the decrease was much more pronounced in control animals, so that at 8 months of age, hepatocyte replication was 8 to 10 times higher in transgenic animals. Surprisingly, however, transgenic and non-transgenic mice at this age had similar liver weight/body weight ratios. Labeling studies done in 3-month-old animals revealed that hepatocyte turnover was much faster in transgenic than in control animals, suggesting that a homeostatic compensatory mechanism involving cell death tended to restore normal liver weight/body weight ratios in older transgenic mice. Ploidy analyses showed that at 4 weeks of age transgenic mice had a higher proportion of diploid and tetraploid hepatocytes and that the hepatocellular tumors which developed in TGF-alpha transgenic mice at 13 months of age contained a higher fraction of diploid hepatocytes than that present in adjacent tissue or in dysplastic livers. The results demonstrate that constitutive overexpression of TGF-alpha causes increased hepatocyte proliferation and liver enlargement in young animals and is associated with a delay in the establishment of hepatic polyploidy. These findings as well as the response of transgenic mice to partial hepatectomy show that constitutive overexpression of TGF-alpha initially caused increased but regulated hepatocyte proliferation which in older animals was compensated in part by a faster cell turnover. At 8 to 10 months of age, proliferative activity may become constitutive in some TGF-alpha expressing hepatocytes.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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