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β-Catenin Plays Role in Liver Growth and Regeneration

Liver-specific deletion of β-catenin in mice results in smaller livers, slower regeneration

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 29 (HealthDay News) -- β-catenin seems to be important for both normal liver growth and liver regeneration after traumatic injury, according to the results of a study in mice published in the November issue Gastroenterology.

Because global knockout of β-catenin is lethal early in development, Satdarshan Monga, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and colleagues developed a conditional knockout mouse with β-catenin deleted specifically in the liver. The researchers used the mouse model to better understand the role of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in liver development and regeneration.

The investigators found a decrease in liver weight that reached up to 35 percent within 6 months after birth and that was sustained throughout their normal life span. The group also decreased liver proliferation and down-regulation of many genes involved in liver homeostasis. Knockout mice subjected to partial hepatectomy showed reduced ability to regenerate liver in the short term due to a defect in cellular proliferation and enhanced cell death.

The results "make it clear that β-catenin expression is not critical to day-to-day liver function, but…reveal interesting deficits when the organism is metabolically or functionally stressed," write Lawrence Scheving, M.D., and William Russell, M.D., of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., in an accompanying editorial.

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