The effect of COX (cyclo-oxygenase)-2-dependent PGs (prostaglandins) in acute liver injury has been investigated in transgenic mice that express human COX-2 in hepatocytes. We have used three well-established models of liver injury: in LPS (lipopolysaccharide) injury in D-GalN (D-galactosamine)-preconditioned mice; in the hepatitis induced by ConA (concanavalin A); and in the proliferation of hepatocytes in regenerating liver after PH (partial hepatectomy). The results from the present study demonstrate that PG synthesis in hepatocytes decreases the susceptibility to LPS/D-GalN or ConA-induced liver injury as deduced by significantly lower levels of the pro-inflammatory profile and plasmatic aminotransferases in transgenic mice, an effect suppressed by COX-2-selective inhibitors. These Tg (transgenic) animals express higher levels of anti-apoptotic proteins and exhibit activation of proteins implicated in cell survival, such as Akt and AMP kinase after injury. The resistance to LPS/D-GalN-induced liver apoptosis involves an impairment of procaspase 3 and 8 activation. Protection against ConA-induced injury implies a significant reduction in necrosis. Moreover, hepatocyte commitment to start replication is anticipated in Tg mice after PH, due to the expression of PCNA (proliferating cell nuclear antigen), cyclin D1 and E. These results show, in a genetic model, that tissue-specific COX-2-dependent PGs exert an efficient protection against acute liver injury by an antiapoptotic/antinecrotic effect and by accelerated early hepatocyte proliferation.

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