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Abstract

The Notch/Jagged signaling pathway is important for cellular differentiation and proliferation. Its dysfunction is associated with human pathologies in several tissues including liver. Point mutations in Jagged-1 gene are the cause for Alagille syndrome, associated with paucity of intrahepatic bile ducts. To determine the putative role of the trans-membrane receptor Notch and its ligand Jagged-1 in liver regeneration, we investigated the expression of Notch and Jagged-1 in rat liver following 2/3 partial hepatectomy. Immunohistochemical staining of normal rat liver showed that Notch was expressed in hepatocytes, bile duct cells and endothelial cells, whereas Jagged-1 was expressed in bile duct cells and hepatocytes. Both Notch-1 and Jagged-1 proteins were upregulated in hepatocytes after partial hepatectomy up to day 4. After partial hepatectomy, nuclear translocation of the intracellular cytoplasmic domain of Notch (NICD) increased and peaked within 15 minutes, indicating the activation of Notch. Expression of the Notch-dependent target gene (HES-1) expression increased within 30–60 minutes. Addition of recombinant Jagged-1 protein to primary cultures of hepatocytes stimulated hepatocyte DNA synthesis. Furthermore, injection of silencing RNA for Notch and Jagged-1 to livers 2 days before partial hepatectomy significantly suppressed proliferation of hepatocytes at days 2 to 4 of the regenerative response. In conclusion, Notch/Jagged signaling pathway is activated during liver regeneration and is potentially contributing to signals affecting cell growth and differentiation. Supplementary material for this article can be found on the HEPATOLOGY website (http://interscience.wiley.com/jpages/0270-9139/suppmat/index.html). (HEPATOLOGY 2004;39:1056–1065.)