• p53-Independent Induction of p21 Fails to Control Regeneration and Hepatocarcinogenesis in a Murine Liver Injury Model.

      Buitrago-Molina, Laura Elisa; Marhenke, Silke; Becker, Diana; Geffers, Robert; Itzel, Timo; Teufel, Andreas; Jaeschke, Hartmut; Lechel, André; Unger, Kristian; Markovic, Jovana; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-01-21)
      Background & aims: A coordinated stress and regenerative response is important after hepatocyte damage. Here, we investigate the phenotypes that result from genetic abrogation of individual components of the checkpoint kinase 2/transformation-related protein 53 (p53)/cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 1A (p21) pathway in a murine model of metabolic liver injury. Methods: Nitisinone was reduced or withdrawn in Fah-/- mice lacking Chk2, p53, or p21, and survival, tumor development, liver injury, and regeneration were analyzed. Partial hepatectomies were performed and mice were challenged with the Fas antibody Jo2. Results: In a model of metabolic liver injury, loss of p53, but not Chk2, impairs the oxidative stress response and aggravates liver damage, indicative of a direct p53-dependent protective effect on hepatocytes. Cell-cycle control during chronic liver injury critically depends on the presence of both p53 and its downstream effector p21. In p53-deficient hepatocytes, unchecked proliferation occurs despite a strong induction of p21, showing a complex interdependency between p21 and p53. The increased regenerative potential in the absence of p53 cannot fully compensate the surplus injury and is not sufficient to promote survival. Despite the distinct phenotypes associated with the loss of individual components of the DNA damage response, gene expression patterns are dominated by the severity of liver injury, but reflect distinct effects of p53 on proliferation and the anti-oxidative stress response. Conclusions: Characteristic phenotypes result from the genetic abrogation of individual components of the DNA damage-response cascade in a liver injury model. The extent to which loss of gene function can be compensated, or affects injury and proliferation, is related to the level at which the cascade is interrupted. Accession numbers of repository for expression microarray data: GSE156983, GSE156263, GSE156852, and GSE156252.
    • Serum Response Factor (SRF) Drives the Transcriptional Upregulation of the MDM4 Oncogene in HCC.

      Pellegrino, Rossella; Thavamani, Abhishek; Calvisi, Diego F; Budczies, Jan; Neumann, Ariane; Geffers, Robert; Kroemer, Jasmin; Greule, Damaris; Schirmacher, Peter; Nordheim, Alfred; et al. (MDPI, 2021-01-08)
      Different molecular mechanisms support the overexpression of the mouse double minute homolog 4 (MDM4), a functional p53 inhibitor, in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, the transcription factors (TFs) leading to its transcriptional upregulation remain unknown. Following promoter and gene expression analyses, putative TFs were investigated using gene-specific siRNAs, cDNAs, luciferase reporter assays, chromatin immunoprecipitation, and XI-011 drug treatment in vitro. Additionally, MDM4 expression was investigated in SRF-VP16iHep transgenic mice. We observed a copy-number-independent upregulation of MDM4 in human HCCs. Serum response factor (SRF), ELK1 and ELK4 were identified as TFs activating MDM4 transcription. While SRF was constitutively detected in TF complexes at the MDM4 promoter, presence of ELK1 and ELK4 was cell-type dependent. Furthermore, MDM4 was upregulated in SRF-VP16-driven murine liver tumors. The pharmacological inhibitor XI-011 exhibited anti-MDM4 activity by downregulating the TFs driving MDM4 transcription, which decreased HCC cell viability and increased apoptosis. In conclusion, SRF drives transcriptional MDM4 upregulation in HCC, acting in concert with either ELK1 or ELK4. The transcriptional regulation of MDM4 may be a promising target for precision oncology of human HCC, as XI-011 treatment exerts anti-MDM4 activity independent from the MDM4 copy number and the p53 status.