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Abstract

Gene expression in hepatocytes within the liver lobule is differentially regulated along the portal to central axis; however, the mechanisms governing the processes of zonation within the lobule are unknown. A model for zonal heterogeneity in normal liver is proposed, based on observations of differential expression of genes in liver tumors from mice that harbor activating mutations in either Catnb (which codes for β-catenin) or Ha-ras. According to the model, the regulatory control consists of two opposing signals, one delivered by endothelial cells of the central veins activating a β-catenin–dependent pathway (retrograde signal), the other by blood-borne molecules activating Ras-dependent downstream cascades (anterograde signal). In conclusion, gradients of opposing signaling molecules along the portocentral axis determine the pattern of enzymes and other proteins expressed in hepatocytes of the periportal and pericentral domains of the liver lobule. (HEPATOLOGY 2006;43:407–414.)