The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a transmembrane receptor tyrosine kinase that is activated by several ligands leading to the activation of diverse signaling pathways controlling mainly proliferation, differentiation, and survival. The EGFR signaling axis has been shown to play a key role during liver regeneration following acute and chronic liver damage, as well as in cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) highlighting the importance of the EGFR in the development of liver diseases. Despite the frequent overexpression of EGFR in human HCC, clinical studies with EGFR inhibitors have so far shown only modest results. Interestingly, a recent study has shown that in human HCC and in mouse HCC models the EGFR is upregulated in liver macrophages where it plays a tumor-promoting function. Thus, the role of EGFR in liver diseases appears to be more complex than what anticipated. Further studies are needed to improve the molecular understanding of the cell-specific signaling pathways that control disease development and progression to be able to develop better therapies targeting major components of the EGFR signaling network in selected cell types. In this review, we compiled the current knowledge of EGFR signaling in different models of liver damage and diseases, mainly derived from the analysis of HCC cell lines and genetically engineered mouse models (GEMMs).
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