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Open Access Research article

Expression profile analysis of the inflammatory response regulated by hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α

Zhongyan Wang1, Eric P Bishop2 and Peter A Burke1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Surgery, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA

2 Bioinformatics Graduate Program, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2011, 12:128  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-128

Published: 25 February 2011



Hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α (HNF4α), a liver-specific transcription factor, plays a significant role in liver-specific functions. However, its functions are poorly understood in the regulation of the inflammatory response. In order to obtain a genomic view of HNF4α in this context, microarray analysis was used to probe the expression profile of an inflammatory response induced by cytokine stimulation in a model of HNF4α knock-down in HepG2 cells.


The expression of over five thousand genes in HepG2 cells is significantly changed with the dramatic reduction of HNF4α concentration compared to the cells with native levels of HNF4α. Over two thirds (71%) of genes that exhibit differential expression in response to cytokine treatment also reveal differential expression in response to HNF4α knock-down. In addition, we found that a number of HNF4α target genes may be indirectly mediated by an ETS-domain transcription factor ELK1, a nuclear target of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK).


The results indicate that HNF4α has an extensive impact on the regulation of a large number of the liver-specific genes. HNF4α may play a role in regulating the cytokine-induced inflammatory response. This study presents a novel function for HNF4α, acting not only as a global player in many cellular processes, but also as one of the components of inflammatory response in the liver.