High, persistent hepatocellular proliferation and apoptosis precede hepatocarcinogenesis in growth hormone transgenic mice


K. J. Snibson, Centre for Animal Biotechnology, School of Veterinary Science, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia


Abstract: Aims/Background: Growth hormone (GH) transgenic mice are known to develop hepatocellular adenomas and carcinomas. In order to understand more about hepatocarcinogenesis in the GH-transgenic mouse model we quantitated the rates of hepatocellular proliferation and apoptosis in these mice. Methods: Two lines of GH-transgenic mice and non-transgenic control mice were generated and sacrificed at regular intervals between one and nine months. Hepatocellular replication was measured by in vivo incorporation of bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) and counting BrdU-positive nuclei in histological liver sections. Serial sections taken from these mouse livers were also assessed for rates of hepatocellular apoptosis using the in situ endlabelling of fragmented DNA (TU-NEL) method. Results: High levels of hepatocellular replication were sustained life-long in this model. Increased rates of hepatocellular proliferation preceded the onset of hepatic inflammation, a prominent feature in the liver pathology of GH-transgenic mice. In tumour tissue, cellular proliferation was up to 17-fold greater than in surrounding non-tumour tissue. Apoptosis rates were also elevated in non-tumour regions of GH-transgenic mouse livers compared to controls. Interestingly, large dysplastic hepatocytes were common in the fraction of cells undergoing apoptosis, especially in older mice with inflamed livers. The increase in the rate of hepatocellular apoptosis in GH-transgenic animals largely balanced the augmented levels of proliferation seen in these mice. In tumour tissue, however, the profound increase in the number of proliferating tumour cells outstripped the increase in apoptosis. Conclusion: Relatively high and enduring levels of hepatocellular replication and apoptosis precede hepatocarcinogenesis in GH-transgenic mice. Increased cellular proliferation and resistance to apoptosis were evident in tumour growth in older animals.