Derangements in apoptosis of liver cells are mechanistically important in the pathogenesis of end-stage liver disease. Vulnerable hepatocytes can undergo apoptosis via an extrinsic, death receptor-mediated pathway, or alternatively intracellular stress can activate the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis. Both pathways converge on mitochondria, and mitochondrial dysfunction is a prerequisite for hepatocyte apoptosis. Persistent apoptosis is a feature of chronic liver diseases, and massive apoptosis is a feature of acute liver diseases. Fibrogenesis is stimulated by ongoing hepatocyte apoptosis, eventually resulting in cirrhosis of the liver in chronic liver diseases. Endothelial cell apoptosis occurs in ischemia-reperfusion injury. Natural killer and natural killer T cells remove virus-infected hepatocytes by death receptor-mediated fibrosis. Lastly, activated stellate cell apoptosis leads to slowing and resolution of apoptosis. This review summarizes recent cellular and molecular advances in the understanding of the injury mechanisms leading to end-stage liver disease.
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