Numerous liver diseases are associated with extensive oxidative tissue damage. It is well established that Wnt/β-catenin signaling directs multiple hepatocellular processes, including development, proliferation, regeneration, nutrient homeostasis, and carcinogenesis. It remains unexplored whether Wnt/β-catenin signaling provides hepatocyte protection against hepatotoxin-induced apoptosis. Conditional, liver-specific β-catenin knockdown (KD) mice and their wild-type littermates were challenged by feeding with a hepatotoxin 3,5-diethoxycarbonyl-1,4-dihydrocollidine (DDC) diet to induce chronic oxidative liver injury. Following the DDC diet, mice with β-catenin-deficient hepatocytes demonstrate increased liver injury, indicating an important role of β-catenin signaling for liver protection against oxidative stress. This finding was further confirmed in AML12 hepatocytes with β-catenin signaling manipulation in vitro using paraquat, a known oxidative stress inducer. Immunofluorescence staining revealed an intense nuclear FoxO3 staining in β-catenin-deficient livers, suggesting active FoxO3 signaling in response to DDC-induced liver injury when compared with wild-type controls. Consistently, FoxO3 target genes p27 and Bim were significantly induced in β-catenin KD livers. Conversely, SGK1, a β-catenin target gene, was significantly impaired in β-catenin KD hepatocytes that failed to inactivate FoxO3. Furthermore, shRNA-mediated deletion of FoxO3 increased hepatocyte resistance to oxidative stress-induced apoptosis, confirming a proapoptotic role of FoxO3 in the stressed liver. Our findings suggest that Wnt/β-catenin signaling is required for hepatocyte protection against oxidative stress-induced apoptosis. The inhibition of FoxO through its phosphorylation by β-catenin-induced SGK1 expression reduces the apoptotic function of FoxO3, resulting in increased hepatocyte survival. These findings have relevance for future therapies directed at hepatocyte protection, regeneration, and anti-cancer treatment.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology