Journal Article

Phenobarbital promotes liver growth in <i>c-myc</i>/TGF-α transgenic mice by inducing hypertrophy and inhibiting apoptosis

Sean Sanders and Snorri S. Thorgeirsson

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 20, issue 1, pages 41-49
Published in print January 1999 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online January 1999 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI:
Phenobarbital promotes liver growth in c-myc/TGF-α transgenic mice by inducing hypertrophy and inhibiting apoptosis

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Phenobarbital (PB) is a non-genotoxic liver tumor promoter used extensively in initiation–promotion protocols. To determine the mode of PB action, double transgenic mice overexpressing both the c-myc and transforming growth factor (TGF)-α genes were treated with PB in the food for 10 weeks, from 3 weeks of age. After 3–4 weeks on PB a peak in liver mass was noted, which subsequently leveled off at a value ~30% above untreated animals. The mitotic index in mice given PB peaked at 1 week of treatment and was significantly elevated compared with untreated animals. No significant difference between treated and untreated animals was seen thereafter, although a trend of PB-associated mitotic suppression was noticeable. The apoptotic index also showed a trend of suppression compared with untreated animals, significant after prolonged PB administration. Dysplastic hepatocytes were more prominent in PB-treated mice than untreated animals, particularly pericentrally. Removal of PB from the diet at 4 weeks of treatment led to a dramatic increase in apoptosis. This accompanied a drop in the liver mass to the level of untreated controls by 10 days. Throughout the study, PB-treated animals showed markedly lower levels of TGF-β1 ligand, coincident with an elevated level of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2. On withdrawal of PB, the levels of all these proteins rapidly changed to mirror those seen in untreated mice. In all treatment groups, no change in the levels of epidermal growth factor receptor, TGF-β receptors I and II or Bcl-xS/L were seen. We conclude from our data that PB stimulates liver growth in double transgenic c-myc/TGF-α mice by induction of liver hypertrophy and inhibition of apoptosis, brought about by both a decrease in signaling through the TGF-β pathway and an increase in Bcl-2. The data support the hypothesis that PB promotes neoplastic development through a reduction in the incidence of cell death.

Keywords: DAB, 3,3′-diaminobenzidine; ECL, enhanced chemiluminescence; EGFR, epidermal growth factor receptor; H&E, hematoxylin and eosin; MT, metallothionein; NF-κB, nuclear factor κB; PB, phenobarbital; TGF, transforming growth factor; TGF-β RI, transforming growth factor receptor I; TGF-β RII, transforming growth factor receptor II.

Journal Article.  7102 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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