A novel mechanism for mitogenic signaling via pro-transforming growth factor alpha within hepatocyte nuclei.

Research paper by Bettina B Grasl-Kraupp, Elisabeth E Schausberger, Karin K Hufnagl, Christopher C Gerner, Alexandra A Löw-Baselli, Walter W Rossmanith, Wolfram W Parzefall, Rolf R Schulte-Hermann

Indexed on: 25 May '02Published on: 25 May '02Published in: Hepatology


Transforming growth factor (TGF) alpha, an important mediator of growth stimulation, is known to act via epidermal growth factor receptor (EGF-R) binding in the cell membrane. Here we show by immunohistology, 2-dimensional immunoblotting, and mass spectrometry of nuclear fractions that the pro-protein of wild-type TGF-alpha occurs in hepatocyte nuclei of human, rat, and mouse liver. Several findings show a close association between nuclear pro-TGF-alpha and DNA synthesis. (1) The number of pro-TGF-alpha+ nuclei was low in resting liver and increased dramatically after partial hepatectomy and after application of hepatotoxic chemicals or the primary mitogen cyproterone acetate (CPA); in any case, S phase occurred almost exclusively in pro-TGF-alpha+ nuclei. The same was found in human cirrhotic liver. (2) In primary culture, 7% of hepatocytes synthesized pro-TGF-alpha, which then translocated to the nucleus; 70% of these nuclei subsequently entered DNA replication, whereas only 2% of pro-TGF-alpha- hepatocytes were in S phase. (3) The frequency of hepatocytes coexpressing pro-TGF-alpha and DNA synthesis was increased by the hepatomitogens CPA or prostaglandin E(2) and was decreased by the growth inhibitor TGF-beta1. (4) Treatment with mature TGF-alpha increased DNA synthesis exclusively in pro-TGF-alpha- hepatocytes, which was abrogated by the EGF-R tyrosine kinase inhibitor tyrphostin A25. In conclusion, TGF-alpha gene products may exert mitogenic effects in hepatocytes via 2 different signaling mechanisms: (1) the "classic" pathway of mature TGF-alpha via EGF-R in the membrane and (2) a novel pathway involving the presence of pro-TGF-alpha in the nucleus.