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Science 317 (5834): 121-124

Copyright © 2007 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Gender Disparity in Liver Cancer Due to Sex Differences in MyD88-Dependent IL-6 Production

Willscott E. Naugler,1,2 Toshiharu Sakurai,1 Sunhwa Kim,1 Shin Maeda,3 KyoungHyun Kim,1 Ahmed M. Elsharkawy,1,4 Michael Karin1*

Abstract: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common liver cancer, occurs mainly in men. Similar gender disparity is seen in mice given a chemical carcinogen, diethylnitrosamine (DEN). DEN administration caused greater increases in serum interleukin-6 (IL-6) concentration in males than it did in females. Furthermore, ablation of IL-6 abolished the gender differences in hepatocarcinogenesis in mice. DEN exposure promoted production of IL-6 in Kupffer cells (KCs) in a manner dependent on the Toll-like receptor adaptor protein MyD88, ablation of which also protected male mice from DEN-induced hepatocarcinogenesis. Estrogen inhibited secretion of IL-6 from KCs exposed to necrotic hepatocytes and reduced circulating concentrations of IL-6 in DEN-treated male mice. We propose that estrogen-mediated inhibition of IL-6 production by KCs reduces liver cancer risk in females, and these findings may be used to prevent HCC in males.

1 Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction, Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Center, University of California, San Diego, CA 93093, USA.
2 Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, University of California, San Diego, CA 93093, USA.
3 Division of Gastroenterology, The Institute for Adult Diseases, Asahi Life Foundation, 1-6-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0005, Japan.
4 Liver Research Group, University of Newcastle, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed: 9500 Gilman Road, Mail Code 0723 University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA 92093–0636, USA. E-mail: karinoffice{at}

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Gut microbes define liver cancer risk in mice exposed to chemical and viral transgenic hepatocarcinogens.
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The Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Functions as a Tumor Suppressor of Liver Carcinogenesis.
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