Journal Article

Induction of hepatocyte proliferation by retinoic acid

G.M. Ledda-Columbano, M. Pibiri, F. Molotzu, C. Cossu, L. Sanna, G. Simbula, A. Perra and A. Columbano

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 25, issue 11, pages 2061-2066
Published in print November 2004 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online November 2004 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI:
Induction of hepatocyte proliferation by retinoic acid

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  • Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics


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Retinoids have been shown to exert an anticarcinogenic effect through suppression of the cell cycle, induction of apoptosis and/or differentiation. In rat liver, in particular, retinoic acid has been shown to inhibit regeneration after partial hepatectomy, most probably through repression of the expression of c-fos and c-jun. Surprisingly enough, in spite of the proposed therapeutic effects of all-trans retinoic acid (tRA) no data are available on its effect on normal adult liver. Here, we show that tRA administration in the diet (150 mg/kg) increased DNA synthesis in mouse liver, at 1 and 2 weeks, with a return to control values at 4 weeks (labelling index was 16.5, 8.3 and 3.3%, respectively, versus control values of 1.4, 1.3 and 2.5%). Increase in mitotic index paralleled that of bromodeoxyuridine incorporation. Kinetic studies showed that entry into S phase began between 24 and 48 h, with a peak between 96 and 120 h. Histological observation of the liver and biochemical evaluation of the levels of serum glutamate-pyruvate transaminases did not reveal any evidence of cell death demonstrating that increased DNA synthesis was not due to tRA-induced liver damage and regeneration, but rather the consequence of a direct mitogenic effect. In addition, analysis of total hepatic DNA content after a 7-day treatment showed a significant increase in tRA-fed mice compared with controls (21.11 mg/100 g body wt in tRA-fed mice versus 15.67 mg/100 g body wt of controls). Hepatocyte proliferation in tRA-fed mice was associated with increased hepatic levels of cyclin D1, E and A, and enhanced expression of the member of pRb family, p107. In conclusion, the results showed that tRA induces hepatocyte proliferation in the absence of cell death, similarly to other ligands of steroid/thyroid hormone nuclear receptor superfamily. The mitogenic effect of tRA cautions about its possible use for antitumoral purposes in liver carcinogenesis.

Keywords: BrdU, bromodeoxyuridine; L.I., labelling index; M.I., mitotic index; RAR, retinoic acid receptor; RXR, retinoic X receptor; tRA, all-trans retinoic acid.

Journal Article.  4489 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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