FOXA2 alleviates CCl4-induced liver fibrosis by protecting hepatocytes in mice.
ABSTRACT: The liver-enriched transcription factor Forkhead Box A2 (FOXA2) has been reported to be involved in bile acid homeostasis and bile duct development. However, the role of FOXA2 in liver fibrogenesis remains undefined. In this study, we found that the abundance of FOXA2 was significantly lower in fibrotic livers of patients and mice treated with CCl4 than in controls. Interestingly, the expression level of FOXA2 decreased in hepatocytes, whereas FOXA2 was elevated in hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) of mouse fibrotic livers. Hepatocyte-specific ablation of FOXA2 in adult mice exacerbated liver fibrosis induced by CCl4. Either lentivirus LV-CMV-FOXA2 mediated FOXA2 overexpression in the liver or adeno-associated virus AAV8-TBG-FOXA2-mediated hepatocyte-specific upregulation of FOXA2 alleviated hepatic fibrosis. Overexpression of FOXA2 in HSCs did not obviously affect hepatic fibrogenesis. Additionally, FOXA2 knockout in hepatocytes resulted in aberrant transcription of metabolic genes. Furthermore, hepatocyte-specific knockout of FOXA2 enhanced endoplasmic reticulum stress (ER stress) and the apoptosis of hepatocytes, whereas FOXA2 overexpression in hepatocytes suppressed ER stress and hepatocyte apoptosis in mouse fibrotic livers. In conclusion, our findings suggested that FOXA2-mediated hepatocyte protection has a therapeutic role in hepatic fibrosis, and thus may be a new, promising anti-fibrotic option for treating chronic liver diseases.
Project description:Background: HGF/c-Met signaling plays a pivotal role in hepatocyte survival and tissue remodeling during liver regeneration. Treatment with HGF has been shown to accelerate resolution of fibrotic liver lesions in experimental animal models. To formally address the importance of c-Met signaling in hepatocytes in the context of chronic liver injury, we have used hepatocyte-specific Metfl/fl;Alb-Cre+/- conditional knockout mice (KO) and a model of liver fibrosis. Methods: CCl4 was administrated biweekly over a period of 4 weeks (injury phase), and the animals were followed over the next 4 weeks (healing phase). Macroscopic and microscopic changes during the injury and healing phases were monitored by IHC. Deposition of ECM was assessed by Sirius red staining and hydroxiproline content. Activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSC) was estimated by a-SMA using WB and IHC. Expression levels of the selected key fibrotic molecules were evaluated by RT-qPCR and WB. Time-dependent global transcriptomic changes from whole livers and isolated hepatocytes were examined using gene expression microarrays. Results: Loss of HGF/c-Met signaling in hepatocytes altered the hepatic microenvironment and dramatically aggravated hepatic fibrogenesis. Increased liver damage was associated with decreased hepatocyte proliferation, progressive accumulation of HSCs, and delayed fibrinolysis causing increased collagen deposit. Dystrophic calcification of necrotic areas impaired phagocytosis, resulting in sustained inflammatory and fibrogenic signaling further augmenting severity of fibrogenesis. Global gene-expression analysis demonstrated upregulation of key fibrogenic molecules, such as Tgf-Ã¢ and Pdgf-Ã¢, paralleled by a decreased expression of genes important for cell cycle, stress response and regeneration, which could be attributed to the c-Met deficiency in hepatocytes. Additionally, key chemotactic and inflammatory cytokines, including Ccl2, SDF1/Cxcr4 and Spp1, were upregulated in Metfl/fl;Alb-Cre+/- hepatocytes. However, the major pro-fibrotic signaling originated from the non-parenchymal cell compartments, as revealed by cell type-specific gene expression signatures. Conclusion: These results indicate that lack of c-Met signaling in hepatocytes disrupts the balance between extracellular matrix production and degradation and establish a protective role for c-Met against adverse microenvironment leading to the development of fibrotic liver disease. In the present study, we reported a detailed and comprehensive dynamic characterization of the cellular and molecular alterations involved in fibrosis in the liver of c-Met transgenic mice. Liver samples from female animals were collected at various time-points after fibrosis induction using CCL4 ranging from 0 weeks to 3 weeks. Tissue samples were divided into two parts; one was fixed in 10% formalin for histological evaluation and the other was used for RNA analysis.
Project description:The loss of mitochondrial function impairs intracellular energy production and potentially results in chronic liver disease. Increasing evidence suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction in hepatocytes contributes to the activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), thereby resulting in hepatic fibrogenesis. High-temperature requirement protein A2 (HtrA2/Omi), a mitochondrial serine protease with various functions, is responsible for quality control in mitochondrial homeostasis. However, little information is available regarding its role in mitochondrial damage during the development of liver fibrosis. This study examined whether HtrA2/Omi regulates mitochondrial homeostasis in hepatocyte during the development of hepatic fibrogenesis. In this study, we demonstrated that HtrA2/Omi expression considerably decreased in liver tissues from the CCl4-induced liver fibrotic mice model and from patients with liver cirrhosis. Knockdown of HtrA2/Omi in hepatocytes induced the accumulation of damaged mitochondria and provoked mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mtROS) stress. We further show that the damaged mtDNA isolated from HtrA2/Omi-deficient hepatocytes as a form of damage-associated molecular patterns can induce HSCs activation. Moreover, we found that motor neuron degeneration 2-mutant mice harboring the missense mutation Ser276Cys in the protease domain of HtrA2/Omi displayed altered mitochondrial morphology and function, which increased oxidative stress and promoted liver fibrosis. Conversely, the overexpression of HtrA2/Omi via hydrodynamics-based gene transfer led to the antifibrotic effects in CCl4-induced liver fibrosis mice model through decreasing collagen accumulation and enhancing anti-oxidative activity by modulating mitochondrial homeostasis in the liver. These results suggest that suppressing HtrA2/Omi expression promotes hepatic fibrogenesis via modulating mtROS generation, and these novel mechanistic insights involving the regulation of mitochondrial homeostasis by HtrA2/Omi may be of importance for developing new therapeutic strategies for hepatic fibrosis.
Project description:Growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15) has recently been shown to have an important role in the regulation of mitochondrial function and in the pathogenesis of complex human diseases. Nevertheless, the role of GDF15 in alcohol-induced or fibrotic liver diseases has yet to be determined. In this study, we demonstrate that alcohol- or carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)-mediated hepatic GDF15 production ameliorates liver inflammation and fibrosis. Alcohol directly enhanced GDF15 expression in primary hepatocytes, which led to increased oxygen consumption. Moreover, GDF15 reduced the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines in liver-resident macrophages, leading to an improvement in inflammation and fibrosis in the liver. GDF15 knockout (KO) mice had more TNF-α-producing T cells and more activated CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in the liver than wild-type mice. Liver-infiltrating monocytes and neutrophils were also increased in the GDF15 KO mice during liver fibrogenesis. These changes in hepatic immune cells were associated with increased tissue inflammation and fibrosis. Finally, recombinant GDF15 decreased the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and fibrotic mediators and prevented the activation of T cells in the livers of mice with CCl4-induced liver fibrosis. These results suggest that GDF15 could be a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of alcohol-induced and fibrotic liver diseases.
Project description:Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) has been recognized as a central mediator and promising therapeutic target in hepatic fibrosis. In this study, we generated a novel virus-like particle (VLP) CTGF vaccine by inserting the 138-159 amino acid (aa) fragment of CTGF into the central c/e1 epitope of C-terminus truncated hepatitis B virus core antigen (HBc, aa 1-149) using a prokaryotic expression system. Immunization of BALB/c mice with the VLP vaccine efficiently elicited the production of anti-CTGF neutralizing antibodies. Vaccination with this CTGF vaccine significantly protected BALB/c mice from carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)-induced hepatic fibrosis, as indicated by decreased hepatic hydroxyproline content and lower fibrotic score. CCl4 intoxication-induced hepatic stellate cell activation was inhibited by the vaccination, as indicated by decreased ?-smooth muscle actin expression and Smad2 phosphorylation. Vaccination against CTGF also attenuated the over-expression of some profibrogenic factors, such as CTGF, transforming growth factor-?1, platelet-derived growth factor-B and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 in the fibrotic mouse livers, decreased hepatocyte apoptosis and accelerated hepatocyte proliferation in the fibrotic mouse livers. Our results clearly indicate that vaccination against CTGF inhibits fibrogenesis, alleviates hepatocyte apoptosis and facilitate hepatic regeneration. We suggest that the vaccine should be developed into an effective therapeutic measure for hepatic fibrosis.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>The classical paradigm of liver injury asserts that hepatic stellate cells (HSC) produce, remodel and turnover the abnormal extracellular matrix (ECM) of fibrosis via matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). In extrahepatic tissues MMP production is regulated by a number of mechanisms including expression of the glycoprotein CD147. Previously, we have shown that CD147 is expressed on hepatocytes but not within the fibrotic septa in cirrhosis . Therefore, we investigated if hepatocytes produce MMPs, regulated by CD147, which are capable of remodelling fibrotic ECM independent of the HSC.<h4>Methods</h4>Non-diseased, fibrotic and cirrhotic livers were examined for MMP activity and markers of fibrosis in humans and mice. CD147 expression and MMP activity were co-localised by in-situ zymography. The role of CD147 was studied in-vitro with siRNA to CD147 in hepatocytes and in-vivo in mice with CCl4 induced liver injury using ãCD147 antibody intervention.<h4>Results</h4>In liver fibrosis in both human and mouse tissue MMP expression and activity (MMP-2, -9, -13 and -14) increased with progressive injury and localised to hepatocytes. Additionally, as expected, MMPs were abundantly expressed by activated HSC. Further, with progressive fibrosis there was expression of CD147, which localised to hepatocytes but not to HSC. Functionally significant in-vitro regulation of hepatocyte MMP production by CD147 was demonstrated using siRNA to CD147 that decreased hepatocyte MMP-2 and -9 expression/activity. Further, in-vivo ?-CD147 antibody intervention decreased liver MMP-2, -9, -13, -14, TGF-? and ?-SMA expression in CCl4 treated mice compared to controls.<h4>Conclusion</h4>We have shown that hepatocytes produce active MMPs and that the glycoprotein CD147 regulates hepatocyte MMP expression. Targeting CD147 regulates hepatocyte MMP production both in-vitro and in-vivo, with the net result being reduced fibrotic matrix turnover in-vivo. Therefore, CD147 regulation of hepatocyte MMP is a novel pathway that could be targeted by future anti-fibrogenic agents.
Project description:The lack of approved therapies for hepatic fibrosis seriously limits medical management of patients with chronic liver disease. Since extracellular vesicles (EVs) function as conduits for intercellular molecular transfer, we investigated if EVs from healthy individuals have anti-fibrotic properties. Hepatic fibrogenesis or fibrosis in carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)- or thioacetic acid-induced liver injury models in male or female mice were suppressed by serum EVs from normal mice (EVN) but not from fibrotic mice (EVF). CCl4-treated mice undergoing EVN therapy also exhibited reduced levels of hepatocyte death, inflammatory infiltration, circulating AST/ALT levels and hepatic or circulating pro-inflammatory cytokines. Hepatic histology, liver function tests or circulating proinflammatory cytokine levels were unaltered in control mice receiving EVN. As determined using PKH26-labelled EVN, principal target cells included hepatic stellate cells (HSC; a normally quiescent fibroblastic cell that undergoes injury-induced activation and produces fibrosis during chronic injury) or hepatocytes which showed increased EVN binding after, respectively, activation or exposure to CCl4. In vitro, EVN decreased proliferation and fibrosis-associated molecule expression in activated HSC, while reversing the inhibitory effects of CCl4 or ethanol on hepatocyte proliferation. In mice, microRNA-34c, -151-3p, -483-5p, -532-5p and -687 were more highly expressed in EVN than EVF and mimics of these microRNAs (miRs) individually suppressed fibrogenic gene expression in activated HSC. A role for these miRs in contributing to EVN actions was shown by the ability of their corresponding antagomirs to individually and/or collectively block the therapeutic effects of EVN on activated HSC or injured hepatocytes. Similarly, the activated phenotype of human LX-2 HSC was attenuated by serum EVs from healthy human subjects and contained higher miR-34c, -151-3p, -483-5p or -532-5p than EVs from hepatic fibrosis patients. In conclusion, serum EVs from normal healthy individuals are inherently anti-fibrogenic and anti-fibrotic, and contain microRNAs that have therapeutic actions in activated HSC or injured hepatocytes. Abbreviations: ALT: alanine aminotransferase; AST: aspartate aminotransferase; CCl4: carbon tetrachloride; CCN2: connective tissue growth factor; E: eosin; EGFP: enhanced green fluorescent protein; EVs: extracellular vesicles; EVF: serum EVs from mice with experimental hepatic fibrosis; EVN: serum EVs from normal mice; H: hematoxylin; HSC: hepatic stellate cell; IHC: immunohistochemistry; IL: interleukin; MCP-1: monocyte chemotactic protein-1; miR: microRNA; mRNA: messenger RNA; NTA: nanoparticle tracking analysis; PCNA: proliferating cell nuclear antigen; qRT-PCR: quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction; SDS-PAGE: sodium dodecyl sulphate - polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis; ?SMA: alpha smooth muscle actin; TAA: thioacetic acid; TG: transgenic; TGF-?: transforming growth factor beta; TEM: transmission electron microscopy; TNF?: tumour necrosis factor alpha.
Project description:Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are nano-sized membrane-limited organelles that are liberated from their producer cells, traverse the intercellular space, and may interact with other cells resulting in the uptake of the EV molecular payload by the recipient cells which may become functionally reprogramed as a result. Previous in vitro studies showed that EVs purified from normal mouse AML12 hepatocytes ("EVNorm") attenuate the pro-fibrogenic activities of activated hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), a principal fibrosis-producing cell type in the liver. In a 10-day CCl4 injury model, liver fibrogenesis, expression of hepatic cellular communication network factor 2 [CCN2, also known as connective tissue growth factor (CTGF)] or alpha smooth muscle actin (?SMA) was dose-dependently blocked during concurrent administration of EVNorm. Hepatic inflammation and expression of inflammatory cytokines were also reduced by EVNorm. In a 5-week CCl4 fibrosis model in mice, interstitial collagen deposition and mRNA and/or protein for collagen 1a1, ?SMA or CCN2 were suppressed following administration of EVNorm over the last 2 weeks. RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) revealed that EVNorm therapy of mice receiving CCl4 for 5 weeks resulted in significant differences [false discovery rate (FDR) <0.05] in expression of 233 CCl4-regulated hepatic genes and these were principally associated with fibrosis, cell cycle, cell division, signal transduction, extracellular matrix (ECM), heat shock, cytochromes, drug detoxification, adaptive immunity, and membrane trafficking. Selected gene candidates from these groups were verified by qRT-PCR as targets of EVNorm in CCl4-injured livers. Additionally, EVNorm administration resulted in reduced activation of p53, a predicted upstream regulator of 40% of the genes for which expression was altered by EVNorm following CCl4 liver injury. In vitro, EVs from human HepG2 hepatocytes suppressed fibrogenic gene expression in activated mouse HSC and reversed the reduced viability or proliferation of HepG2 cells or AML12 cells exposed to CCl4. Similarly, EVs produced by primary human hepatocytes (PHH) protected PHH or human LX2 HSC from CCl4-mediated changes in cell number or gene expression in vitro. These findings show that EVs from human or mouse hepatocytes regulate toxin-associated gene expression leading to therapeutic outcomes including suppression of fibrogenesis, hepatocyte damage, and/or inflammation.
Project description:Inflammatory and wound healing responses take place during liver damage, primarily in the parenchymal tissue. It is known that cellular injury elicits an activation of the purinergic signaling, mainly by the P2X7 receptor; however, the role of P2Y receptors in the onset of liver pathology such as fibrosis has not been explored. Hence, we used mice treated with the hepatotoxin CCl4 to implement a reversible model of liver fibrosis to evaluate the expression and function of the P2Y2 receptor (P2Y2R). Fibrotic livers showed an enhanced expression of P2Y2R that eliminated its zonal distribution. Hepatocytes from CCl4-treated mice showed an exacerbated ERK-phosphorylated response to the P2Y2R-specific agonist, UTP. Cell proliferation was also enhanced in the fibrotic livers. Hepatic transcriptional analysis by microarrays, upon CCl4 administration, showed that P2Y2 activation regulated diverse pathways, revealing complex action mechanisms. In conclusion, our data indicate that P2Y2R activation is involved in the onset of the fibrotic damage associated with the reversible phase of the hepatic damage promoted by CCl4.
Project description:Hepatocyte apoptosis and activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSC) are critical events in fibrogenesis. We previously demonstrated that phagocytosis of apoptotic hepatocytes by HSC is profibrogenic. Based on this, as well as the observation that reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidase (NADPH) oxidase induction is central to fibrogenesis, our aim was to study the phagocytic NADPH oxidase NOX2.An in vivo phagocytosis model was developed by injecting wild type (wt) or NOX2(-/-) mice with lentiviral-green fluorescence protein (GFP) containing a hepatocyte-specific promoter, and adeno-tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (ad-TRAIL). Fibrosis was evaluated in bile duct ligated (BDL) wt and NOX2(-/-) mice with or without gadolinium treatment. NOX2 expression was studied in human liver samples and in HSC isolated from fibrotic livers. The fibrogenic activity of NOX2 was assessed by collagen reporter assays.In the phagocytosis model, engulfment of GFP-labeled apoptotic bodies was seen, and the expression of ?-smooth muscle actin (?-SMA) and collagen I increased significantly in the wt but not in the NOX2(-/-) mice. Inhibiting apoptosis decreased the profibrogenic response. NOX2(-/-) animals exhibited significantly less fibrosis following BDL. Inactivating macrophages in wt BDL mice did not lower collagen production to the level observed in NOX2(-/-) mice, suggesting that NOX2-expressing HSC are important in fibrogenesis. NOX2 was up-regulated in HSC from fibrotic livers, and phagocytosis-induced NOX2 expression and activity were demonstrated. Based on reporter assays, production of NOX2-mediated reactive oxygen species directly induced collagen promoter activity in HSC.Apoptosis and phagocytosis of hepatocytes directly induce HSC activation and initiation of fibrosis. NOX2, the phagocytic NADPH oxidase, plays a key role in this process and in liver fibrogenesis in vivo.
Project description:<b>Rationale:</b> We developed a cocktail of soluble molecules mimicking the <i>in vivo</i> milieu supporting liver regeneration that could convert mature hepatocytes to expandable liver progenitor-like cells <i>in vitro</i>. This study aimed to induce endogenous liver progenitor cells by the administration of the soluble molecules to provide an alternative approach for the resolution of liver fibrosis. <b>Methods:</b> <i>In vitro</i> cultured hepatocyte-derived liver progenitor-like cells (HepLPCs) were transplanted into CCL4-treated mice to investigate the therapeutic effect against liver fibrosis. Next, we used HGF in combination with a cocktail of small molecules (Y-27632, A-83-01, and CHIR99021 (HACY)) to induce endogenous CD24<sup>+</sup> liver progenitor cells and to inhibit the activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) during CCL4-induced hepatic injury. RNA sequencing was performed to further clarify the features of HACY-induced CD24<sup>+</sup> cells compared with CCL4-induced CD24<sup>+</sup> cells and <i>in vitro</i> derived HepLPCs. Finally, we evaluated the expansion of HACY-induced CD24<sup>+</sup> cells in human hepatocyte-spheroids from fibrotic liver tissues. <b>Results:</b> HepLPCs exhibited the capacity to alleviate liver fibrosis after transplantation into CCL4-treated mice. The <i>in vivo</i> administration of HACY not only induced the conversion of mature hepatocytes (MHs) to CD24<sup>+</sup> progenitor cells but prevented the activation of HSCs, thus leading to enhanced improvement of liver fibrosis in CCL4-treated mice. Compared to CD24<sup>+</sup> cells induced by CCL4 alone, HACY-induced CD24<sup>+</sup> cells retained an enhanced level of hepatic function and could promote the restoration of liver function that exhibited comparable gene expression profiles with HepLPCs. CD24<sup>+</sup> cells were also observed in human liver fibrotic tissues and were expanded in three-dimensional (3D) hepatic spheroids in the presence of HACY <i>in vitro</i>. <b>Conclusions:</b> Hepatocyte-derived liver progenitor-like cells are crucial for liver regeneration during chronic hepatic injuries. The administration of HACY, which allowed the induction of endogenous CD24<sup>+</sup> progenitor cells and the inactivation of HSCs, exerts beneficial effects in the treatment of liver fibrosis by re-establishing a balance favoring liver regeneration while preventing fibrotic responses.