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Event: 716

Key Event Title

The KE title should describe a discrete biological change that can be measured. It should generally define the biological object or process being measured and whether it is increased, decreased, or otherwise definably altered relative to a control state. For example “enzyme activity, decreased”, “hormone concentration, increased”, or “growth rate, decreased”, where the specific enzyme or hormone being measured is defined. More help

Increase, cell proliferation (hepatocytes)

Short name
The KE short name should be a reasonable abbreviation of the KE title and is used in labelling this object throughout the AOP-Wiki. The short name should be less than 80 characters in length. More help
Increase, cell proliferation (hepatocytes)

Biological Context

Structured terms, selected from a drop-down menu, are used to identify the level of biological organization for each KE. Note, KEs should be defined within a particular level of biological organization. Only KERs should be used to transition from one level of organization to another. Selection of the level of biological organization defines which structured terms will be available to select when defining the Event Components (below). More help
Level of Biological Organization

Cell term

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable. More help
Cell term

Organ term

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable. More help
Organ term

Key Event Components

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.Because one of the aims of the AOP-KB is to facilitate de facto construction of AOP networks through the use of shared KE and KER elements, authors are also asked to define their KEs using a set of structured ontology terms (Event Components). In the absence of structured terms, the same KE can readily be defined using a number of synonymous titles (read by a computer as character strings). In order to make these synonymous KEs more machine-readable, KEs should also be defined by one or more “event components” consisting of a biological process, object, and action with each term originating from one of 22 biological ontologies (Ives, et al., 2017; See List). Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signalling). The biological object is the subject of the perturbation (e.g., a specific biological receptor that is activated or inhibited). Action represents the direction of perturbation of this system (generally increased or decreased; e.g., ‘decreased’ in the case of a receptor that is inhibited to indicate a decrease in the signalling by that receptor).Note that when editing Event Components, clicking an existing Event Component from the Suggestions menu will autopopulate these fields, along with their source ID and description. To clear any fields before submitting the event component, use the 'Clear process,' 'Clear object,' or 'Clear action' buttons. If a desired term does not exist, a new term request may be made via Term Requests. Event components may not be edited; to edit an event component, remove the existing event component and create a new one using the terms that you wish to add. More help
Process Object Action
cell proliferation mitogenic signaling cell increased
hepatocyte proliferation hepatocyte increased

Key Event Overview

AOPs Including This Key Event

All of the AOPs that are linked to this KE will automatically be listed in this subsection. This table can be particularly useful for derivation of AOP networks including the KE. Clicking on the name of the AOP will bring you to the individual page for that AOP. More help
AOP Name Role of event in AOP Point of Contact Author Status OECD Status
CAR activation- Hepatocellular tumors KeyEvent Kristin Lichti-Kaiser (send email) Open for citation & comment EAGMST Under Review
AR- HCC KeyEvent Charles Wood (send email) Open for adoption Under Development
PPARalpha-dependent liver tumors in rodents KeyEvent Chris Corton (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite Under Development


This is a structured field used to identify specific agents (generally chemicals) that can trigger the KE. Stressors identified in this field will be linked to the KE in a machine-readable manner, such that, for example, a stressor search would identify this as an event the stressor can trigger. NOTE: intermediate or downstream KEs in one AOP may function as MIEs in other AOPs, meaning that stressor information may be added to the KE description, even if it is a downstream KE in the pathway currently under development.Information concerning the stressors that may trigger an MIE can be defined using a combination of structured and unstructured (free-text) fields. For example, structured fields may be used to indicate specific chemicals for which there is evidence of an interaction relevant to this MIE. By linking the KE description to a structured chemical name, it will be increasingly possible to link the MIE to other sources of chemical data and information, enhancing searchability and inter-operability among different data-sources and knowledgebases. The free-text section “Evidence for perturbation of this MIE by stressor” can be used both to identify the supporting evidence for specific stressors triggering the MIE as well as to define broad chemical categories or other properties that classify the stressors able to trigger the MIE for which specific structured terms may not exist. More help

Taxonomic Applicability

Latin or common names of a species or broader taxonomic grouping (e.g., class, order, family) can be selected from an ontology. In many cases, individual species identified in these structured fields will be those for which the strongest evidence used in constructing the AOP was available in relation to this KE. More help
Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
rat Rattus norvegicus NCBI
mouse Mus musculus NCBI
human Homo sapiens NCBI
Hamster Hamster NCBI
dog Canis lupus familiaris NCBI

Life Stages

The structured ontology terms for life-stage are more comprehensive than those for taxa, but may still require further description/development and explanation in the free text section. More help
Life stage Evidence
All life stages High

Sex Applicability

No help message More help
Term Evidence
Unspecific High

Key Event Description

A description of the biological state being observed or measured, the biological compartment in which it is measured, and its general role in the biology should be provided. For example, the biological state being measured could be the activity of an enzyme, the expression of a gene or abundance of an mRNA transcript, the concentration of a hormone or protein, neuronal activity, heart rate, etc. The biological compartment may be a particular cell type, tissue, organ, fluid (e.g., plasma, cerebrospinal fluid), etc. The role in the biology could describe the reaction that an enzyme catalyses and the role of that reaction within a given metabolic pathway; the protein that a gene or mRNA transcript codes for and the function of that protein; the function of a hormone in a given target tissue, physiological function of an organ, etc. Careful attention should be taken to avoid reference to other KEs, KERs or AOPs. Only describe this KE as a single isolated measurable event/state. This will ensure that the KE is modular and can be used by other AOPs, thereby facilitating construction of AOP networks. More help

Key Event Description:

Cell proliferation in the livers of rats and mice occurs through exposure to a mitogen and is characterized by liver enlargement without evidence of necrosis. In contrast, regenerative/compensatory proliferation occurs following loss of liver parenchymal cells from necrosis or hepatectomy.

In mammals, the nature of the hepatocyte proliferative response is shaped by the identity of the mitogen, the time course and dose of administration, and the species and strain of the test animal (Columbano and Shinozuka, 1996).

How It Is Measured or Detected

One of the primary considerations in evaluating AOPs is the relevance and reliability of the methods with which the KEs can be measured. The aim of this section of the KE description is not to provide detailed protocols, but rather to capture, in a sentence or two, per method, the type(s) of measurements that can be employed to evaluate the KE and the relative level of scientific confidence in those measurements. Methods that can be used to detect or measure the biological state represented in the KE should be briefly described and/or cited. These can range from citation of specific validated test guidelines, citation of specific methods published in the peer reviewed literature, or outlines of a general protocol or approach (e.g., a protein may be measured by ELISA).Key considerations regarding scientific confidence in the measurement approach include whether the assay is fit for purpose, whether it provides a direct or indirect measure of the biological state in question, whether it is repeatable and reproducible, and the extent to which it is accepted in the scientific and/or regulatory community. Information can be obtained from the OECD Test Guidelines website and the EURL ECVAM Database Service on Alternative Methods to Animal Experimentation (DB-ALM). ?

Mitogenic proliferation in vitro and in vivo is measured by the incorporation of labeled nucleosides or nucleoside analogs into newly synthesized DNA (Peffer et al., 2018b), the detection of endogenous markers of proliferation such as antigen Ki-67 or proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) (Kee et al., 2002;  Muskhelishvili et al., 2003;  Wood et al., 2015), and other immunohistochemical techniques to detect proliferating cells. For each of these methods, a labeling index (fraction of labeled cell population/total number of cells in population) is calculated, and this index can be statistically compared between different groups (Wood et al., 2015).

Nucleoside and nucleoside analog labeling. Actively proliferating cells undergo DNA synthesis in a highly regulated process during the S (synthesis) phase of the cell cycle. Once the DNA of a cell is replicated during S phase, the cell undergoes mitosis. This results in two cells, each of which has a complete copy of the genome. The DNA replication that occurs in S phase may be detected by the incorporation radiolabeled (e.g., 3H-thymidine) into the newly synthesized DNA, which can be detected from isolated livers using standard autoradiographic techniques. Nucleoside analogs may also be incorporated into the newly-synthesized DNA, including 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine (BrdU) or 5-ethyl-2’-deoxy uridine (EdU), which may be detected using standard immunohistochemical and biolabeling techniques, respectively (Cavanagh et al., 2011). Drawbacks of the use of nucleoside analogs include concerns regarding the proper administration (dose, route of administration and length of exposure) to animals that allow for adequate labeling without inducing considerable toxicity (Cavanagh et al., 2011;  Cohen, 2010). In addition, nucleoside/nucleoside analog incorporation techniques are not specific for the detection of proliferation but may also identify cells that are undergoing DNA synthesis during apoptosis or DNA repair.

Endogenous markers of proliferation. Ki-67 and PCNA are endogenous proteins expressed by mammalian cells that are in active phases of the cell cycle (G1, S, G2, M) and are not expressed in quiescent (G0) cells (Dietrich, 1993;  Eldrige et al., 1993;  Scholzen and Gerdes, 2000). They are detected in hepatocytes using standard immunohistochemical techniques. The advantage of using endogenous markers is that they do not require administration of exogenous markers for labeling, and they can be used for both prospective and retrospective cell proliferation analysis. A direct comparison of BrdU, Ki67 and PCNA labeling in various proliferating tissues of male Sprague-Dawley rats (Muskhelishvili et al., 2003) has indicated that Ki67 and BrdU immunohistochemistry methods gave similar labelling index results, whereas PCNA immunohistochemistry was not concordant with these methods and gave highly variable results. These authors suggested that PCNA is less accurate as a measure of cell proliferation because it has a long half-life and can be retained in cells that are not dividing, and is more involved in DNA repair mechanisms than Ki67. As a result, Ki67 has emerged as a more preferred endogenous marker for assessing cell proliferation in hepatocytes in recent years compared to PCNA.

Domain of Applicability

This free text section should be used to elaborate on the scientific basis for the indicated domains of applicability and the WoE calls (if provided). While structured terms may be selected to define the taxonomic, life stage and sex applicability (see structured applicability terms, above) of the KE, the structured terms may not adequately reflect or capture the overall biological applicability domain (particularly with regard to taxa). Likewise, the structured terms do not provide an explanation or rationale for the selection. The free-text section on evidence for taxonomic, life stage, and sex applicability can be used to elaborate on why the specific structured terms were selected, and provide supporting references and background information.  More help

Epidermal growth factor (EGF) is one of several extracellular ligands of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). The EGFR signaling pathway is conserved in most animals, in which it controls processes such as cell proliferation, differentiation, adhesion, and migration (Barberan and Cebria, 2018).

EGFR is a transmembrane protein that is classified as a tyrosine kinase receptor. EGFR has several structural domains: 1) an N-terminal extracellular domain that binds ligands such as EGF, 2) a transmembrane domain, 3) an intracellular domain containing tyrosine kinase activity, and 4) a C-terminal region that contains tyrosine residues that are the sites of autophosphorylation. Ligand binding results in a cascade of events that include EGFR homo-or heterodimerization, activation of the tyrosine kinase domain, tyrosine autophosphorylation, and ultimately the activation of downstream signaling cascades that control various processes in the liver such as proliferation, survival, differentiation, response to injury, and repair (Berasain and Avila, 2014;  Komposch and Sibilia, 2015).

EGF has been used as an agent to stimulate proliferation of rat, mouse, and human hepatic cells in culture (Bowen et al., 2014;  Haines et al., 2018c;  Hodges et al., 2000;  Parzefall et al., 1991).

Other mitogenic agents produce a cell proliferation response in rats and mice, but not other mammalian species such as humans, hamsters or dogs.  These agents include phenobarbital (a model CAR activator) (Haines et al., 2018c;  Hirose et al., 2009;  Parzefall et al., 1991), WY-14,643 (pirinixic acid) (a model PPARalpha activator) (Corton et al., 2018) and TCDD (a model AhR activator) (Becker et al., 2015;  Budinsky et al., 2014).

Evidence for Perturbation by Stressor



1.         NaPB treatment has been shown to increase replicative DNA synthesis in cultured mouse (Haines et al., 2018c) and rat hepatocytes (Haines et al., 2018c;  Hirose et al., 2009).

2.         NaPB treatment (1 week 500-2500 ppm in the diet) was shown to significantly increase the BrdU labeling index in the livers of male CD-1 mice and male Wistar rats compared to their respective vehicle-treated controls (Yamada et al., 2014).

3.         An increase in replicative DNA synthesis was observed in male and female mice administered 1000 ppm NaPB in the diet for 1 month (Jones et al., 2009).

4.         PB at 0, 10, 50, 100 and 500 mg/kg (ppm) in the diet was administered to 8 week old male rats and male mice for 90 days. A significant induction of hepatic replicative DNA synthesis (as determined by [3H]-thymidine incorporation) was observed in the rat liver at 7 days, but had returned to control levels by 14 days. In mice, there was a significant increase in hepatic replicative DNA synthesis throughout treatment (Kolaja et al., 1996a). In both species, the most pronounced effect was observed in the centrilobular region.

Epidermal growth factor

Epidermal growth factor

1.         Human epidermal growth factor (hEGF) treatment was shown to significantly increase replicative DNA synthesis, and Ki-67 mRNA levels in human hepatocytes of chimeric mice with humanized livers (human hepatocyte chimeric livers) (Yamada et al., 2014).

2.         EGF has been shown to increase the proliferation of mouse (Bowen et al., 2014;  Haines et al., 2018c), rat (Bowen et al., 2014;  Haines et al., 2018c;  Hodges et al., 2000), and human (Haines et al., 2018c;  Parzefall et al., 1991) hepatocyte cultures as determined by increase in replicative DNA synthesis compared to appropriate controls.

pirinixic acid

WY-14,643 (pirinixic acid)

  1. WY-14,643 (pirinixic acid) is a potent PPARα activator, and its ability to stimulate cell proliferation has been reviewed in Corton et al. (2018).

2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD)

2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD)

  1. TCDD is a potent AhR activator, and its ability to stimulate cell proliferation has been reviewed in Becker et al. (2015).  


List of the literature that was cited for this KE description. Ideally, the list of references, should conform, to the extent possible, with the OECD Style Guide ( (OECD, 2015). More help

Barberan, S. and Cebria, F. (2018), The role of the EGFR signaling pathway in stem cell differentiation during planarian regeneration and homeostasis. Semin Cell Dev Biol, 10.1016/j.semcdb.2018.05.011.

Becker, R. A., Patlewicz, G., Simon, T. W., Rowlands, J. C. and Budinsky, R. A. (2015), The adverse outcome pathway for rodent liver tumor promotion by sustained activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 73, 172-90, 10.1016/j.yrtph.2015.06.015.

Berasain, C. and Avila, M. A. (2014), The EGFR signalling system in the liver: from hepatoprotection to hepatocarcinogenesis. J Gastroenterol 49, 9-23, 10.1007/s00535-013-0907-x.

Bowen, W. C., Michalopoulos, A. W., Orr, A., Ding, M. Q., Stolz, D. B. and Michalopoulos, G. K. (2014), Development of a chemically defined medium and discovery of new mitogenic growth factors for mouse hepatocytes: mitogenic effects of FGF1/2 and PDGF. PLoS One 9, e95487, 10.1371/journal.pone.0095487.

Budinsky, R. A., Schrenk, D., Simon, T., Van den Berg, M., Reichard, J. F., Silkworth, J. B., Aylward, L. L., Brix, A., Gasiewicz, T., Kaminski, N., Perdew, G., Starr, T. B., Walker, N. J. and Rowlands, J. C. (2014), Mode of action and dose-response framework analysis for receptor-mediated toxicity: The aryl hydrocarbon receptor as a case study. Crit Rev Toxicol 44, 83-119, 10.3109/10408444.2013.835787.

Cavanagh, B. L., Walker, T., Norazit, A. and Meedeniya, A. C. (2011), Thymidine analogues for tracking DNA synthesis. Molecules 16, 7980-93, 10.3390/molecules16097980.

Cohen, S. M. (2010), Evaluation of possible carcinogenic risk to humans based on liver tumors in rodent assays: the two-year bioassay is no longer necessary. Toxicol Pathol 38, 487-501, 10.1177/0192623310363813.

Columbano, A. and Shinozuka, H. (1996), Liver regeneration versus direct hyperplasia. FASEB J 10, 1118-28.

Corton, J. C., Peters, J. M. and Klaunig, J. E. (2018), The PPARalpha-dependent rodent liver tumor response is not relevant to humans: addressing misconceptions. Arch Toxicol 92, 83-119, 10.1007/s00204-017-2094-7.

Dietrich, D. R. (1993), Toxicological and pathological applications of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), a novel endogenous marker for cell proliferation. Crit Rev Toxicol 23, 77-109, 10.3109/10408449309104075.

Eldrige, S. R., Butterworth, B. E. and Goldsworthy, T. L. (1993), Proliferating cell nuclear antigen: a marker for hepatocellular proliferation in rodents. Environ Health Perspect 101 Suppl 5, 211-8, 10.1289/ehp.93101s5211.

Haines, C., Elcombe, B. M., Chatham, L. R., Vardy, A., Higgins, L. G., Elcombe, C. R. and Lake, B. G. (2018c), Comparison of the effects of sodium phenobarbital in wild type and humanized constitutive androstane receptor (CAR)/pregnane X receptor (PXR) mice and in cultured mouse, rat and human hepatocytes. Toxicology 396-397, 23-32, 10.1016/j.tox.2018.02.001.

Hirose, Y., Nagahori, H., Yamada, T., Deguchi, Y., Tomigahara, Y., Nishioka, K., Uwagawa, S., Kawamura, S., Isobe, N., Lake, B. G. and Okuno, Y. (2009), Comparison of the effects of the synthetic pyrethroid Metofluthrin and phenobarbital on CYP2B form induction and replicative DNA synthesis in cultured rat and human hepatocytes. Toxicology 258, 64-9.

Hodges, N. J., Orton, T. C., Strain, A. J. and Chipman, J. K. (2000), Potentiation of epidermal growth factor-induced DNA synthesis in rat hepatocytes by phenobarbitone: possible involvement of oxidative stress and kinase activation. Carcinogenesis 21, 2041-7.

Jones, H. B., Orton, T. C. and Lake, B. G. (2009), Effect of chronic phenobarbitone administration on liver tumour formation in the C57BL/10J mouse. Food Chem Toxicol 47, 1333-40, 10.1016/j.fct.2009.03.014.

Kee, N., Sivalingam, S., Boonstra, R. and Wojtowicz, J. M. (2002), The utility of Ki-67 and BrdU as proliferative markers of adult neurogenesis. J Neurosci Methods 115, 97-105.

Kolaja, K. L., Stevenson, D. E., Johnson, J. T., Walborg, E. F., Jr. and Klaunig, J. E. (1996a), Subchronic effects of dieldrin and phenobarbital on hepatic DNA synthesis in mice and rats. Fundam Appl Toxicol 29, 219-28.

Komposch, K. and Sibilia, M. (2015), EGFR Signaling in Liver Diseases. Int J Mol Sci 17, 10.3390/ijms17010030.

Muskhelishvili, L., Latendresse, J. R., Kodell, R. L. and Henderson, E. B. (2003), Evaluation of cell proliferation in rat tissues with BrdU, PCNA, Ki-67(MIB-5) immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization for histone mRNA. J Histochem Cytochem 51, 1681-8.

Parzefall, W., Erber, E., Sedivy, R. and Schulte-Hermann, R. (1991), Testing for induction of DNA synthesis in human hepatocyte primary cultures by rat liver tumor promoters. Cancer Res 51, 1143-7.

Peffer, R. C., LeBaron, M. J., Battalora, M., Bomann, W. H., Werner, C., Aggarwal, M., Rowe, R. R. and Tinwell, H. (2018b), Minimum datasets to establish a CAR-mediated mode of action for rodent liver tumors. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 96, 106-120, 10.1016/j.yrtph.2018.04.001.

Scholzen, T. and Gerdes, J. (2000), The Ki-67 protein: from the known and the unknown. J Cell Physiol 182, 311-22, 10.1002/(sici)1097-4652(200003)182:3<311::aid-jcp1>;2-9.

Wood, C. E., Hukkanen, R. R., Sura, R., Jacobson-Kram, D., Nolte, T., Odin, M. and Cohen, S. M. (2015), Scientific and Regulatory Policy Committee (SRPC) Review: Interpretation and Use of Cell Proliferation Data in Cancer Risk Assessment. Toxicol Pathol 43, 760-75, 10.1177/0192623315576005.

Yamada, T., Okuda, Y., Kushida, M., Sumida, K., Takeuchi, H., Nagahori, H., Fukuda, T., Lake, B. G., Cohen, S. M. and Kawamura, S. (2014), Human hepatocytes support the hypertrophic but not the hyperplastic response to the murine nongenotoxic hepatocarcinogen sodium phenobarbital in an in vivo study using a chimeric mouse with humanized liver. Toxicol Sci 142, 137-57, 10.1093/toxsci/kfu173.