Attenuating the EGFR-ERK-SOX9 axis promotes liver progenitor cell-mediated liver regeneration in zebrafish

So, J., Kim, M., Lee, S.H., Ko, S., Lee, D.A., Park, H., Azuma, M., Parsons, M.J., Prober, D., Shin, D.
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)   73(4): 1494-1508 (Journal)
Registered Authors
Azuma, Mizuki, Ko, Sungjin, Parsons, Michael, Prober, David, Shin, Donghun, So, Juhoon
biliary epithelial cells, liver progenitor cells, oval cells, reprogramming, sox9b
MeSH Terms
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Butadienes/pharmacology
  • Cell Differentiation/drug effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors/pharmacology
  • ErbB Receptors/antagonists & inhibitors
  • ErbB Receptors/metabolism*
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases/antagonists & inhibitors
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases/metabolism*
  • Hepatocytes/cytology
  • Liver Regeneration/drug effects*
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System/drug effects*
  • Nitriles/pharmacology
  • Quinazolines/pharmacology
  • SOX9 Transcription Factor/metabolism*
  • Stem Cells/cytology
  • Stem Cells/metabolism*
  • Tyrphostins/pharmacology
  • Zebrafish/metabolism*
32602149 Full text @ Hepatology
The liver is a highly regenerative organ, but its regenerative capacity is compromised in severe liver injury settings. In chronic liver diseases, the number of liver progenitor cells (LPCs) correlates proportionally to disease severity, implying that their inefficient differentiation into hepatocytes exacerbates the disease. Moreover, LPCs secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines; thus, their prolonged presence worsens inflammation and induces fibrosis. Promoting LPC-to-hepatocyte differentiation in patients with advanced liver disease, for whom liver transplantation is currently the only therapeutic option, may be a feasible clinical approach since such promotion generates more functional hepatocytes and concomitantly reduces inflammation and fibrosis. Here, using zebrafish models of LPC-mediated liver regeneration, we present a proof-of-principle of such therapeutics by demonstrating a role for the EGFR signaling pathway in differentiation of LPCs into hepatocytes. We found that suppression of EGFR signaling promoted LPC-to-hepatocyte differentiation via the MEK-ERK-SOX9 cascade. Pharmacological inhibition of EGFR or MEK/ERK promoted LPC-to-hepatocyte differentiation as well as genetic suppression of the EGFR-ERK-SOX9 axis. Moreover, Sox9b overexpression in LPCs blocked their differentiation into hepatocytes. In the zebrafish liver injury model, both hepatocytes and biliary epithelial cells contributed to LPCs. EGFR inhibition promoted the differentiation of LPCs regardless of their origin. Notably, short-term treatment with EGFR inhibitors resulted in better liver recovery over the long term. Conclusion: The EGFR-ERK-SOX9 axis suppresses LPC-to-hepatocyte differentiation during LPC-mediated liver regeneration. We suggest EGFR inhibitors as a pro-regenerative therapeutic drug for patients with advanced liver disease.
Genes / Markers
Mutations / Transgenics
Human Disease / Model
Sequence Targeting Reagents
Engineered Foreign Genes