p53 family proteins carry on a wide spectrum of biological functions from differentiation, cell cycle arrest, apoptosis and chemosensitivity of tumors. Conversely, N-terminally truncated p73 (DNp73) functions as a potent inhibitor of all these tumor suppressor properties, implicating its participation in malignant transformation and oncogenesis. Several reports indicated considerable up-regulation of DNp73 in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) that correlates with reduced survival of patients, but little is known about the functional significance of DNp73 to tumorigenesis in vivo due to the lack of an appropriate model. To address this, we generated transgenic mice in which DNp73 expression is directed to the liver by the albumin promoter. Gene expression was tested by mRNA and protein analyses. Transgenic mice exhibited prominent hepatic histological abnormalities including increased hepatocyte proliferation resulting in preneoplastic lesions (liver cell adenomas) at 3-4 months. Among 12- to 20-month-old mice, 83% of animals developed hepatic carcinoma. HCC displayed a significant increase of hyperphosphorylated inactive retinoblastoma, whereas p53-regulated inhibitors of cell cycle progression were down-regulated in the tumors. Our data firmly establish the unique oncogenic capability of DNp73 to drive hepatocarcinogenesis in vivo, supporting its significance as a marker for disease severity in patients and as target for cancer prevention. This model offers new opportunities to further delineate DNp73-mediated liver oncogenesis but may also enable the development of more effective cancer therapies.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)