Hepatic loss of miR-122 predisposes mice to hepatobiliary cyst and hepatocellular carcinoma upon diethylnitrosamine exposure

Shu Hao Hsu, Bo Wang, Huban Kutay, Hemant Bid, Julia Shreve, Xiaoli Zhang, Stefan Costinean, Anna Bratasz, Peter Houghton, Kalpana Ghoshal

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25 Scopus citations


Loss of miR-122 causes chronic steatohepatitis and spontaneous hepatocellular carcinoma. However, the consequence of miR-122 deficiency on genotoxic stress-induced liver pathogenesis is poorly understood. Here, we investigated the impact of miR-122 depletion on liver pathobiology by treating liver-specific miR-122 knockout (LKO) mice with the hepatocarcinogen diethylnitrosamine (DEN). At 25 weeks post-DEN injection, all LKO mice developed CK-19-positive hepatobiliary cysts, which correlated with DEN-induced transcriptional activation of Cdc25a mediated through E2f1. Additionally, LKO livers were more fibrotic and vascular, and developed larger microscopic tumors, possibly due to elevation of the Axl oncogene, a receptor tyrosine kinase as a novel target of miR-122, and several protumorigenic miR-122 targets. At 35 weeks following DEN exposure, LKO mice exhibited a higher incidence of macroscopic liver tumors (71%) and cysts (86%) compared to a 21.4% and 0% incidence of tumors and cysts, respectively, in control mice. The tumors in LKO mice were bigger (ninefold, P = 0.015) and predominantly hepatocellular carcinoma, whereas control mice mostly developed hepatocellular adenoma. DEN treatment also reduced survival of LKO mice compared to control mice (P = 0.03). Interestingly, induction of oxidative stress and proinflammatory cytokines in LKO liver shortly after DEN exposure indicates predisposition of a pro-tumorigenic microenvironment. Collectively, miR-122 depletion facilitates cystogenesis and hepatocarcinogenesis in mice on DEN challenge by up-regulating several genes involved in proliferation, growth factor signaling, neovascularization, and metastasis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1719-1730
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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