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Abstract

Assessment of liver regeneration with endogenous genes that are expressed during DNA replication is physiological, specific and direct. To determine whether H3 histone messenger RNA expression (which is tightly coupled with DNA synthesis) could be used for this purpose, we initially examined liver regeneration in a mouse model. After partial hepatectomy, RNA transblot studies showed induction of H3 histone messenger RNA expression in regenerating mouse livers. In situ molecular hybridization demonstrated that the overall pattern of H3 histone messenger RNA expression correlated with [3H]thymidine labeling of hepatocytes. After partial hepatectomy, H3 histone messenger RNA expression in hepatocytes peaked at 48 hr (>60 times greater than at 24 hr; p < 0.001) and then rapidly declined. Although hepatocyte labeling with [3H]thymidine showed similar kinetics of liver regeneration, use of this parameter resulted in overestimation of the proliferative compartment when it was compared with H3 histone messenger RNA expression. Next we determined whether H3 histone messenger RNA expression could be used to study hepatocellular proliferation in archival human material. H3 histone messenger RNA—expressing hepatocytes were identified on in situ hybridization in patients with acute or chronic active hepatitis and active cirrhosis, but not inactive cirrhosis. These studies demonstrate that H3 histone messenger RNA is expressed in a phasic manner during liver regeneration. Use of H3 histone messenger RNA expression to evaluate hepatocellular proliferation should facilitate clinical studies and greatly advance our understanding of the pathophysiology of liver regeneration. (HEPATOLOGY 1992;16:968–973.)