Concurrent deletion of cyclin E1 and cyclin-dependent kinase 2 in hepatocytes inhibits DNA replication and liver regeneration in mice


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.

  • See Editorial on Page 370

  • This work was supported by a grant of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (LI1045/2-4; to C.T. and C.L.). M.B. was supported by a grant from the European Research Council (ERC-AG/250297-RAS AHEAD).


The liver has a strong regenerative capacity. After injury, quiescent hepatocytes can reenter the mitotic cell cycle to restore tissue homeostasis. This G0/G1-S cell-cycle transition of primed hepatocytes is regulated by complexes of cyclin-dependent kinase 2 (Cdk2) with E-type cyclins (CcnE1 or CcnE2). However, single genetic ablation of either E-cyclin or Cdk2 does not affect overall liver regeneration. Here, we systematically investigated the contribution of CcnE1, CcnE2, and Cdk2 for liver regeneration after partial hepatectomy (PH) by generating corresponding double- and triple-knockout (KO) mouse mutants. We demonstrate that conditional deletion of Cdk2 alone in hepatocytes resulted in accelerated induction of CcnE1, but otherwise normal initiation of S phase in vivo and in vitro. Excessive CcnE1 did not contribute to a noncanonical kinase activity, but was located at chromatin together with components of the pre-replication complex (pre-RC), such as the minichromosome maintenance (MCM) helicase. Concomitant ablation of Cdk2 and CcnE1 in hepatocytes caused a defect in pre-RC formation and further led to dramatically impaired S-phase progression by down-regulation of cyclin A2 and cell death in vitro and substantially reduced hepatocyte proliferation and liver regeneration after PH in vivo. Similarly, combined loss of CcnE1 and CcnE2, but also the Cdk2/CcnE1/CcnE2 triple KO in liver, significantly inhibited S-phase initiation and liver mass reconstitution after PH, whereas concomitant ablation of CcnE2 and Cdk2 had no effect. Conclusion: In the absence of Cdk2, CcnE1 performs crucial kinase-independent functions in hepatocytes, which are capable of driving MCM loading on chromatin, cyclin A2 expression, and S-phase progression. Thus, combined inactivation of Cdk2 and CcnE1 is the minimal requirement for blocking S-phase machinery in vivo. (Hepatology 2014;59:651–660)