Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

First Advisor

Dr. Brett Spear


The liver is an essential organ for cholesterol homeostasis. If this process becomes dysregulated, cardiovascular disease (CVD) develops. Zinc-fingers and homeoboxes 2 (Zhx2) as an important hepatic gene regulator and contributes to CVD. BALB/cJ mice, with mutant Zhx2 allele, have fewer atherosclerotic plaques compared to other strains on a high fat diet. In my dissertation, I focused on the liver phenotype in BALB/cJ mice on a high-fat diet and found increased liver damage compared to wild-type Zhx2 mice. These data indicates that reduced Zhx2 in the liver leads to CVD resistance, but increases liver damage. Therefore, Zhx2 has an important role in lipid metabolism and liver function.

Hepatic alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) is expressed abundantly in the fetal liver and repressed after birth regulated through three enhancers (E1, E2, and E3). E3 activity is restricted to a single layer of hepatocytes surrounding central veins (pericentral region) along with glutamine synthetase (GS). In my dissertation, I explore pericentral gene regulation in the adult liver. A GS enhancer (GSe) also exhibits pericentral activity which, along with E3, is regulated by the β-catenin signaling pathway. Orphan receptors, Rev-erbα, Rev-erbβ, and RORα, contribute to E3 activity elucidating a potential mechanism for zonation.