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p38α Inhibits Liver Fibrogenesis and Consequent Hepatocarcinogenesis by Curtailing Accumulation of Reactive Oxygen Species

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ahmed Elsharkawy


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Most hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC) develop in the context of severe liver fibrosis and cirrhosis caused by chronic liver inflammation, which also results in accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). In this study, we examined whether the stress-activated protein kinase p38 alpha (Mapk14) controls ROS metabolism and development of fibrosis and cancer in mice given thioacetamide to induce chronic liver injury. Liver-specific p38 alpha ablation was found to enhance ROS accumulation, which appears to be exerted through the reduced expression of antioxidant protein HSP25 (Hspb1), a mouse homolog of HSP27. Its reexpression in p38 alpha-deficient liver prevents ROS accumulation and thioacetamide-induced fibrosis. p38 alpha deficiency increased expression of SOX2, a marker for cancer stem cells and the liver oncoproteins c-Jun (Jun) and Gankyrin (Psmd10) and led to enhanced thioacetamide-induced hepatocarcinogenesis. The upregulation of SOX2 and c-Jun was prevented by administration of the antioxidant butylated hydroxyanisole. Intriguingly, the risk of human HCC recurrence is positively correlated with ROS accumulation in liver. Thus, p38 alpha and its target HSP25/HSP27 appear to play a conserved and critical hepatoprotective function by curtailing ROS accumulation in liver parenchymal cells engaged in oxidative metabolism of exogenous chemicals. Augmented oxidative stress of liver parenchymal cells may explain the close relationship between liver fibrosis and hepatocarcinogenesis. Cancer Res; 73(1); 215-24. (C) 2012 AACR.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sakurai T, Kudo M, Umemura A, He GB, Elsharkawy AM, Seki E, Karin M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cancer Research

Year: 2013

Volume: 73

Issue: 1

Pages: 215-224

Print publication date: 02/01/2013

ISSN (print): 0008-5472

ISSN (electronic): 1538-7445

Publisher: American Association for Cancer Research


DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-1602


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Funder referenceFunder name
Ministry of Education, Science, Sport and Culture of Japan
Mitsui Life Social Welfare Foundation
Osaka Community Foundation
Novartis Foundation
Yasuda Medical Foundation
ES0100337Superfund Basic Research Program
WT086755Welcome Trust