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1.  Restoration of intrahepatic regulatory T cells through MMP-9/13-dependent activation of TGF-β is critical for immune homeostasis following acute liver injury 
During the acute liver injury, immune responses are provoked into eliciting inflammation in the acute phase. In the healing phase, the inflammation is terminated for wound healing and restoration of immune homeostasis. In this study, we sought to address how regulatory T cells (Tregs) are involved in the progression of liver injury and repair. In the acute phase, intrahepatic Tregs (CD4+FoxP3+Helios+) diminished promptly through apoptosis, which was followed by inflammation and tissue injury. In the healing phase, a new subset of Tregs (CD4+Foxp3+Helios−) was generated in correlation with the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) cascade and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) activation that were manifested mainly by hepatic stellate cells. Moreover, the induction of induced Tregs and wound healing were both impaired in mice lacking TGF-β signaling or MMPs. The depletion of induced Tregs also impeded wound healing for tissue repair. Together, this study demonstrates the mechanism that the loss of nTregs through apoptosis in the acute phase may facilitate inflammation, while regenerated Tregs through MMP9/13-dependent activation of TGF-β in the healing phase are critical to terminate inflammation and allow for wound healing.
PMCID: PMC3841112  PMID: 24280647
liver injury; wound healing; regulatory T cells; TGF-β; IL-1; hepatic stellate cells; matrix metalloproteinase
2.  Changing Interdigestive Migrating Motor Complex in Rats under Acute Liver Injury 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:634281.
Gastrointestinal motility disorder is a major clinical manifestation of acute liver injury, and interdigestive migrating motor complex (MMC) is an important indicator. We investigated the changes and characteristics of MMC in rats with acute liver injury. Acute liver injury was created by d-galactosamine, and we recorded the interdigestive MMC using a multichannel physiological recorder and compared the indexes of interdigestive MMC. Compared with normal controls, antral MMC Phase I duration was significantly prolonged and MMC Phase III duration was significantly shortened in the rats with acute liver injury. The duodenal MMC cycle and MMC Phases I and IV duration were significantly prolonged and MMC Phase III duration was significantly shortened in the rats with acute liver injury. The jejunal MMC cycle and MMC Phases I and IV duration were significantly prolonged and MMC Phase III duration was significantly shortened in the rats with acute liver injury compared with normal controls. Compared with the normal controls, rats with acute liver injury had a significantly prolonged interdigestive MMC cycle, related mainly to longer MMC Phases I and IV, shortened MMC Phase III, and MMC Phase II characterized by increased migrating clustered contractions, which were probably major contributors to the gastrointestinal motility disorders.
PMCID: PMC4228720  PMID: 25544942
3.  Oxidative stress promotes d-GalN/LPS-induced acute hepatotoxicity by increasing glycogen synthase kinase 3β activity 
Inflammation Research  2014;63(6):485-494.
Our previous studies have demonstrated that glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β) activity is increased in the progression of acute liver failure (ALF), which aggravates liver injury, while its regulatory mechanism remains elusive. This study is designated to address whether oxidative stress activates GSK3β to promote ALF.
In a murine model induced by d-galactosamine (d-GalN) (700 mg/kg) and LPS (10 μg/kg), N-acetylcysteine (300 mg/kg) or SB216763 (25 mg/kg) was used to inhibit oxidative stress or GSK3β activity, respectively. Serum alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase levels were assessed. The parameters of oxidative stress were evaluated in liver tissue. Whether GSK3β inhibition protects hepatocytes from oxidative stress-induced cell apoptosis was investigated in vitro. Moreover, the activity of GSK3β was measured in the liver of chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients and ALF patients.
In vivo, N-acetylcysteine ameliorated the d-GalN/LPS-induced hepatotoxicity and reduced GSK3β activity; GSK3β inhibition increased hepatic superoxide dismutase activity and the glutathione content, decreased malondialdehyde production in the liver tissues; while GSK3β inhibition suppressed the JNK activation in the liver and decreased cytochrome c release from mitochondria. In vitro, GSK3β inhibition lessened hepatocytes apoptosis induced by H2O2 or Antimycin A, as demonstrated by decreased LDH activity, and reduced cleavage of caspase-3 expression. Furthermore, GSK3β activity in the CHB patients was increased in the phase of ALF.
Results indicate that GSK3β activation contributes to liver injury by participating in oxidative stress response in ALF and is, therefore, a potential therapeutic target for ALF.
PMCID: PMC4018480  PMID: 24531650
GSK3β; SB216763; Acute liver failure; Oxidative stress; N-acetylcysteine
4.  Inhibition of Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3β Ameliorates D-GalN/LPS-Induced Liver Injury by Reducing Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress-Triggered Apoptosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45202.
Glycogen synthase kinase 3β(GSK3β) is a ubiquitous serine-threonine protein kinase that participates in numerous cellular processes and disease pathophysiology. We aimed to determine therapeutic potential of GSK3β inhibition and its mechanism in a well-characterized model of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced model of acute liver failure (ALF).
In a murine ALF model induced by D-GalN(700 mg/kg)/LPS(10 µg/kg), we analyzed GSK3β mechanisms using a specific chemical inhibitor, SB216763, and detected the role of endoplasmic reticulum stress (ERS). Mice were administered SB216763 at 2 h before or after D-GalN/LPS injection, respectively, and then sacrificed 6 h after D-GalN/LPS treatment to evaluate its prophylactic and therapeutic function. The lethality rate, liver damage, ERS, cytokine expression, MAP kinase, hepatocyte apoptosis and expression of TLR 4 were evaluated, respectively. Whether the inhibition of GSK3β activation protected hepatocyte from ERS-induced apoptosis was investigated in vitro.
Principal Findings
GSK3β became quickly activated (dephosphorylated) upon D-GalN/LPS exposure. Administration of SB216763 not only ameliorated liver injury, as evidenced by reduced transaminase levels, and well-preserved liver architecture, but also decreased lethality. Moreover, GSK3β inhibition resulted in down-regulation of pro-apoptotic proteins C/EBP–homologous protein(CHOP) and caspase-12, which are related to ERS. To further demonstrate the role of ERS, we found that GSK3β inhibition protected hepatocyte from ERS-induced cell death. GSK3β inhibition down-regulated the MAPK pathways, reduced expression of inflammatory cytokines and decreased expression of TLR4.
Our findings demonstrate the key function of GSK3β signaling in the pathophysiology of ALF, especially in regulating the ERS, and provide a rationale for targeting GSK3β as a potential therapeutic strategy to ameliorate ALF.
PMCID: PMC3461002  PMID: 23028846
5.  The Inhibition of Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta Ameliorates Liver Ischemia Reperfusion Injury via an IL-10-mediated Immune Regulatory Mechanism 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2011;54(2):687-696.
The ubiquitous serine/threnine kinase glycogen synthase kinase 3β (Gsk3β) differentially regulates macrophage TLR-triggered pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine programs. This study was designed to determine in vivo role and therapeutic potential of Gsk3β modulation in tissue inflammation and injury in a murine model of liver partial warm ischemia/reperfusion (IRI). As a constitutively activated liver kinase, Gsk3β became quickly inactivated (phosphorylated) following IR. The active Gsk3β, however, was essential for the development of IRI pathology, as administration of its specific inhibitor SB216763, ameliorated the hepatocellular damage, evidenced by reduced sALT levels and well-preserved liver architecture, compared with controls. The liver protective effect of Gsk3β inhibition was dependent on an immune regulatory mechanism, rather than direct cytoprotection via mitochondria permeability transition pores (MPTP). Indeed: (a) co-administration of SB216763 and atractyloside (MPTP opener) failed to abrogate local cytoprotective Gsk3β inhibition effect; (b) SB216763 selectively inhibited IR-triggered liver pro-inflammatory, but spared IL-10, gene induction program; and (c) IL-10 neutralization restored liver inflammation and IRI in SB216763-treated mice. Gsk3β inactivation by IR was a self-regulatory mechanism in liver homeostasis, critically dependent on phosphoinositide 3 (PI3)-kinase activation, as administration of PI3 kinase inhibitor, wortmannin, reduced Gsk3 phosphorylation and augmented liver damage. In vitro, IL-10 was critical for the suppression of pro-inflammatory gene programs by Gsk3 inhibition in bone marrow-derived macrophages in response to TLR4 stimulation. Our novel findings document the key immune regulatory function of Gsk3β signaling in the pathophysiology of liver IRI, and provide the rationale to target Gsk3β as a refined therapeutic strategy to ameliorate liver IRI.
PMCID: PMC3145016  PMID: 21567437
6.  Interleukin-1 as an Injury Signal Mobilizes Retinyl Esters in Hepatic Stellate Cells through Down Regulation of Lecithin Retinol Acyltransferase 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e26644.
Retinoids are mostly stored as retinyl esters in hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) through esterification of retinol and fatty acid, catalyzed by lecithin-retinol acyltransferase (LRAT). This study is designated to address how retinyl esters are mobilized in liver injury for tissue repair and wound healing. Initially, we speculated that acute inflammatory cytokines may act as injury signal to mobilize retinyl esters by down-regulation of LRAT in HSCs. By examining a panel of cytokines we found interleukin-1 (IL-1) can potently down-regulate mRNA and protein levels of LRAT, resulting in mobilization of retinyl esters in primary rat HSCs. To simulate the microenvironment in the space of Disse, HSCs were embedded in three-dimensional extracellular matrix, by which HSCs retaine quiescent phenotypes, indicated by up-regulation of LRAT and accumulation of lipid droplets. Upon IL-1 stimulation, LRAT expression went down together with mobilization of lipid droplets. Secreted factors from Kupffer cells were able to suppress LRAT expression in HSCs, which was neutralized by IL-1 receptor antagonist. To explore the underlying mechanism we noted that the stability of LRAT protein is not significantly regulated by IL-1, indicating the regulation is likely at transcriptional level. Indeed, we found that IL-1 failed to down-regulate recombinant LRAT protein expressed in HSCs by adenovirus, while transcription of endogenous LRAT was promptly decreased. Following liver damage, IL-1 was promptly elevated in a close pace with down-regulation of LRAT transcription, implying their causative relationship. After administration of IL-1, retinyl ester levels in the liver, as measured by LC/MS/MS, decreased in association with down-regulation of LRAT. Likewise, IL-1 receptor knockout mice were protected from injury-induced down-regulation of LRAT. In summary, we identified IL-1 as an injury signal to mobilize retinyl ester in HSCs through down-regulation of LRAT, implying a mechanism governing transition from hepatic injury to wound healing.
PMCID: PMC3208544  PMID: 22073179
7.  Complement and the Alternative Pathway Play an Important Role in LPS/D-GalN-Induced Fulminant Hepatic Failure 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e26838.
Fulminant hepatic failure (FHF) is a clinically severe type of liver injury with an extremely high mortality rate. Although the pathological mechanisms of FHF are not well understood, evidence suggests that the complement system is involved in the pathogenesis of a variety of liver disorders. In the present study, to investigate the role of complement in FHF, we examined groups of mice following intraperitoneal injection of LPS/D-GalN: wild-type C57BL/6 mice, wild-type mice treated with a C3aR antagonist, C5aR monoclonal antibody (C5aRmAb) or CR2-Factor H (CR2-fH, an inhibitor of the alternative pathway), and C3 deficient mice (C3−/− mice). The animals were euthanized and samples analyzed at specific times after LPS/D-GalN injection. The results show that intraperitoneal administration of LPS/D-GalN activated the complement pathway, as evidenced by the hepatic deposition of C3 and C5b-9 and elevated serum levels of the complement activation product C3a, the level of which was associated with the severity of the liver damage. C3a receptor (C3aR) and C5a receptor (C5aR) expression was also upregulated. Compared with wild-type mice, C3−/− mice survived significantly longer and displayed reduced liver inflammation and attenuated pathological damage following LPS/D-GalN injection. Similar levels of protection were seen in mice treated with C3aR antagonist,C5aRmAb or CR2-fH. These data indicate an important role for the C3a and C5a generated by the alternative pathway in LPS/D-GalN-induced FHF. The data further suggest that complement inhibition may be an effective strategy for the adjunctive treatment of fulminant hepatic failure.
PMCID: PMC3206060  PMID: 22069473
8.  Protective Effect of Hepatitis B Vaccine Combined with Two-Dose Hepatitis B Immunoglobulin on Infants Born to HBsAg-Positive Mothers 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26748.
Despite the use of hepatitis B (HB) vaccine and hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG), a portion of infants are still non- or low-responders, or even immunoprophylaxis failure. We aimed to determine the immune response in the infants from the mothers being positive for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), by which the infants received three doses of HB vaccine in combination with two-dose 200 IU HBIG injections.
In this retrospective study, 621 infants from HBsAg-positive mothers in Beijing YouAn Hospital between January 2008 and December 2009 were included. All the infants were given three doses of 10 µg HB vaccine (at 0, 1 and 6 months of age) and two-dose of 200 IU HBIG (at birth and in 2 weeks of age). Serum HBsAg and antibody to HBsAg (anti-HBs) in all the infants were determined at 7 months of age.
Of the 621 infants, 2.9% were immunoprophylaxis failure (positive for HBsAg), 1.4% were non-responders (anti-HBs undetectable), 95.7% were responders. The 594 responders could be categorized into three subsets, 22 were 10 to 99 IU/L for anti-HBs levels, 191 were 100 to 999 IU/L, and 381 were ≥1000 IU/L. The immunoprophylaxis failure rate was at 0% and 5.2% for the infants of HBeAg-negative and HBeAg-positive mothers(P<0.001). Infants from mothers with detectable HBV DNA had higher incidence of immunoprophylaxis failure than those of mothers without detectable HBV DNA (P = 0.002). The factors including gender, birth weight, gestation weeks, the rates of maternal HBeAg-positive, and detectable HBV DNA did not contribute to the no response to HB vaccination.
Through vaccination by three doses of HB and two-dose of HBIG, majority of the infants (95.7%) achieved a protective level of anti-HBs at 7 months of age. Maternal HBeAg-positive and HBV DNA detectable were associated with the immunoprophylaxis failure, but not contribute to the non- or low-response to HB vaccination.
PMCID: PMC3203892  PMID: 22053208
9.  Current Challenges and the Management of Chronic Hepatitis C in Mainland China 
Despite decreasing prevalence, new cases of hepatitis C in China are increasing recently with growing percentage of patients who are with advanced disease, aging, or not eligible for interferon-based treatments. Hepatitis C infection represents a serious public health burden. This review was based on expert’s consensus during a medical forum on hepatitis sponsored by the Beijing Wu Jie-Ping Medical Foundation. The literature searches were conducted in PubMed and critical publications in Chinese journals. Data on hepatitis C prevalence, risk factors, viral or host features, and treatment modalities were extracted and reviewed. Recent large-scale surveys reported reducing prevalence of hepatitis C to approximately 0.4% in China, partly because of regulation changes to safer medical practices and illegalizing commercial blood donations. Patient demographics evolved from being dominated by former paid blood donors to include intravenous drug users and others. Although hepatitis C genotype 1 is the most common, other genotypes are emerging in prevalence. The current standard of care is interferon-based without direct acting antivirals. However, many patients failed therapy because of high treatment costs, substantial needs to manage side effects, difficulties with treatment monitoring in the rural areas, and growing populations of elderly and cirrhotic patients. The lack of high efficacy therapies with good safety profile and low disease awareness in China resulted in increasing public burden of advanced hepatitis C disease. Despite significant reduction of hepatitis C prevalence, iatrogenic, nosocomial, and community transmissions are still significant. In addition to promoting disease awareness, interferon-free regimens are needed to reduce the public health burden.
PMCID: PMC4162325  PMID: 24921215
disease prevalence; China HCV; standard of care; unmet need; disease burden

Results 1-9 (9)