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Open Access Research article

Urokinase-type plasminogen activator supports liver repair independent of its cellular receptor

Kumar Shanmukhappa1, Gregg E Sabla1, Jay L Degen2 and Jorge A Bezerra1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the Department of Pediatrics of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

2 Division of Developmental Biology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the Department of Pediatrics of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

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BMC Gastroenterology 2006, 6:40  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-6-40

Published: 29 November 2006

Abstract

Background

The urokinase-type (uPA) and tissue-type (tPA) plasminogen activators regulate liver matrix remodelling through the conversion of plasminogen (Plg) to the active protease plasmin. Based on the efficient activation of plasminogen when uPA is bound to its receptor (uPAR) and on the role of uPA in plasmin-mediated liver repair, we hypothesized that uPA requires uPAR for efficient liver repair.

Methods

To test this hypothesis, we administered one dose of carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) to mice with single or combined deficiencies of uPA, uPAR and tPA, and examined hepatic morphology, cellular proliferation, fibrin clearance, and hepatic proteolysis 2–14 days later.

Results

Absence of uPAR alone or the combined absence of uPAR and tPA had no impact on the resolution of centrilobular injury, but the loss of receptor-free uPA significantly impaired the clearance of necrotic hepatocytes up to 14 days after CCl4. In response to the injury, hepatocyte proliferation was normal in mice of all genotypes, except for uPAR-deficient (uPAR°) mice, which had a reproducible but mild decrease by 33% at day 2, with an appropriate restoration of liver mass by 7 days similar to experimental controls. Immunostaining and zymographic analysis demonstrated that uPA alone promoted fibrin clearance from centrilobular regions and efficiently activated plasminogen.

Conclusion

uPA activates plasminogen and promotes liver matrix proteolysis during repair via a process that neither requires its receptor uPAR nor requires a contribution from its functional counterpart tPA.