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Paper Chase

Prolactin prevents hepatocellular carcinoma by restricting innate immune activation of c-Myc in mice.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.. Aug 05, 2014;111(31):11455-60.
Hartwell HJ, Petrosky KY, Fox JG, Horseman ND, Rogers AB.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536;


Women are more resistant to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) than men despite equal exposure to major risk factors, such as hepatitis B or C virus infection. Female resistance is hormone-dependent, as evidenced by the sharp increase in HCC incidence in postmenopausal women who do not take hormone replacement therapy. In rodent models sex-dimorphic HCC phenotypes are pituitary-dependent, suggesting that sex hormones act via the gonadal-hypophyseal axis. We found that the estrogen-responsive pituitary hormone prolactin (PRL), signaling through hepatocyte-predominant short-form prolactin receptors (PRLR-S), constrained TNF receptor-associated factor (TRAF)-dependent innate immune responses invoked by IL-1β, TNF-α, and LPS/Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), but not TRIF-dependent poly(I:C)/TLR3. PRL ubiquitinated and accelerated poststimulatory decay of a "trafasome" comprised of IRAK1, TRAF6, and MAP3K proteins, abrogating downstream activation of c-Myc-interacting pathways, including PI3K/AKT, mTORC1, p38 MAPK, and NF-κB. Consistent with this finding, we documented exaggerated male liver responses to immune stimuli in mice and humans. Tumor promotion through, but regulation above, the level of c-Myc was demonstrated by sex-independent HCC eruption in Alb-Myc transgenic mice. PRL deficiency accelerated liver carcinogenesis in Prl(-/-) mice of both sexes. Conversely, pharmacologic PRL mobilization using the dopamine D2 receptor antagonist domperidone prevented HCC in tumor-prone C3H/HeN males. Viewed together, our results demonstrate that PRL constrains tumor-promoting liver inflammation by inhibiting MAP3K-dependent activation of c-Myc at the level of the trafasome. PRL-targeted therapy may hold promise for reducing the burden of liver cancer in high-risk men and women.