Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common chronic liver disease and may progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The molecular determinants of this pathogenic progression, however, remain largely undefined. Since liver tumorigenesis is driven by apoptosis, we examined the effect of overt hepatocyte apoptosis in a mouse model of NASH using mice lacking myeloid cell leukemia 1 (Mcl1), a pro-survival member of the BCL-2 protein family. Hepatocyte-specific Mcl1 knockout (Mcl1∆hep) mice and control littermates were fed chow or FFC (high saturated fat, fructose, and cholesterol) diet, which induces NASH, for 4 and 10 months. Thereafter, liver injury, inflammation, fibrosis, and tumor development were evaluated biochemically and histologically. Mcl1∆hep mice fed with the FFC diet for 4 months displayed a marked increase in liver injury, hepatocyte apoptosis, hepatocyte proliferation, macrophage-associated liver inflammation, and pericellular fibrosis in contrast to chow-fed Mcl1∆hep and FFC diet-fed Mcl1-expressing littermates. After 10 months of feeding, 78% of FFC diet-fed Mcl1∆hep mice developed liver tumors compared to 38% of chow-fed mice of the same genotype. Tumors in FFC diet-fed Mcl1∆hep mice were characterized by cytologic atypia, altered liver architecture, immunopositivity for glutamine synthetase, and histologically qualified as HCC. In conclusion, this study provides evidence that excessive hepatocyte apoptosis exacerbates the NASH phenotype with enhancement of tumorigenesis in mice.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology
- Cancer Research