Background & Aims: The tumor suppressor p53 is a primary sensor of stressful stimuli, controlling a number of biologic processes. The aim of our study was to examine the roles of p53 in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Methods: Male wild type and p53-deficient mice were fed a methionine- and choline-deficient diet for 8 weeks to induce nutritional steatohepatitis. mRNA expression profiles in normal liver samples and liver samples from patients with non-alcoholic liver disease (NAFLD) were also evaluated. Results: Hepatic p53 and p66Shc signaling was enhanced in the mouse NASH model. p53 deficiency suppressed the enhanced p66Shc signaling, decreased hepatic lipid peroxidation and the number of apoptotic hepatocytes, and ameliorated progression of nutritional steatohepatitis. In primary cultured hepatocytes, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β treatment increased p53 and p66Shc signaling, leading to exaggerated reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation and apoptosis. Deficient p53 signaling inhibited TGF-β-induced p66Shc signaling, ROS accumulation, and hepatocyte apoptosis. Furthermore, expression levels of p53, p21, and p66Shc were significantly elevated in human NAFLD liver samples, compared with results obtained with normal liver samples. Among NAFLD patients, those with NASH had significantly higher hepatic expression levels of p53, p21, and p66Shc compared with the group with simple steatosis. A significant correlation between expression levels of p53 and p66Shc was observed. Conclusions: p53 in hepatocytes regulates steatohepatitis progression by controlling p66Shc signaling, ROS levels, and apoptosis, all of which may be regulated by TGF-β. Moreover, p53/p66Shc signaling in the liver appears to be a promising target for the treatment of NASH.
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