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Abstract

Acute liver injury causes massive hepatocyte apoptosis and/or fatal liver damage. Fibronectin, an extracellular matrix glycoprotein, is prominently expressed during adult tissue repair. However, the extent of fibronectin dependence on hepatocyte response to acute liver damage remains to be defined. Because identification of hepatic survival factors is critical for successful therapeutic intervention in liver failure, this relationship has been investigated using a fibronectin-deficient mouse model of acute liver injury. Here, we show that lack of fibronectin induces significantly increased hepatocyte apoptosis, which is accompanied by significant down-regulation of the antiapoptotic protein, B-cell lymphoma—extra large (Bcl-xL). Furthermore, fibronectin deficiency leads to a significantly elevated production of hepatocyte growth factor in hepatic stellate cells postinjury, which, in turn, results in an earlier onset and acceleration of hepatocyte regeneration. Primary hepatocytes on fibronectin are protected from reactive oxygen species–induced cellular damage, retaining the expression of Bcl-xL, whereas those on type I collagen are not. This retained expression of Bcl-xL is inhibited by the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor LY294002. Conclusion: We provide evidence that fibronectin-mediated matrix survival signals for hepatocytes are transduced through the PI3K/Bcl-xL-signaling axis in response to injury. This work defines fibronectin as a novel antiapoptotic factor for hepatocytes after acute liver injury, but demonstrates that fibronectin is not essential for subsequent hepatocyte proliferation. (HEPATOLOGY 2012;56:311–321)