Background and Aims
Hereditary disorders associated with metal overload or unwanted toxic accumulation of heavy metals can lead to morbidity and mortality. Patients with hereditary hemochromatosis or Wilson disease for example may develop severe hepatic pathology including fibrosis, cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma. While relevant disease genes are identified and genetic testing is applicable, liver biopsy in combination with metal detecting techniques such as energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX) is still applied for accurate diagnosis of metals. Vice versa, several metals are needed in trace amounts for carrying out vital functions and their deficiency due to rapid growth, pregnancy, excessive blood loss, and insufficient nutritional or digestive uptake results in organic and systemic shortcomings. Established in situ techniques, such as EDX-ray spectroscopy, are not sensitive enough to analyze trace metal distribution and the quantification of metal images is difficult.
In this study, we developed a quantitative biometal imaging technique of human liver tissue by laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) in order to compare the distribution of selected metals in cryo-sections of healthy and fibrotic/cirrhotic livers.
Most of the metals are homogeneous distributed within the normal tissue, while they are redirected within fibrotic livers resulting in significant metal deposits. Moreover, total iron and copper concentrations in diseased liver were found about 3-5 times higher than in normal liver samples.
Biometal imaging via LA-ICP-MS is a sensitive innovative diagnostic tool that will impact clinical practice in identification and evaluation of hepatic metal disorders and to detect subtle metal variations during ongoing hepatic fibrogenesis.
Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) play a major role in the pathogenesis of liver fibrosis. Working on primary HSCs requires difficult isolation procedures; therefore we have generated and here characterize a mouse hepatic stellate cell line expressing GFP under control of the collagen 1(I) promoter/enhancer. These cells are responsive to pro-fibrogenic stimuIi, such as PDGF or TGF-β1, and are able to activate intracellular signalling pathways including Smads and MAP kinases. Nevertheless, due to the basal level of activation, TGF-β1 did not significantly induce GFP expression contrasting the TGF-β1 regulated endogenous collagen I expression. We could demonstrate that the accessory TGF-β-receptor endoglin, which is endogenously expressed at very low levels, has a differential effect on signalling of these cells when transiently overexpressed. In the presence of endoglin activation of Smad1/5/8 was drastically enhanced. Moreover, the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 was increased, and the expression of vimentin, α-smooth muscle actin and connective tissue growth factor was upregulated. Endoglin induced a slight increase in expression of the inhibitor of differentiation-2 while the amount of endogenous collagen type I was reduced. Therefore, this profibrogenic cell line with hepatic stellate cell origin is not only a promising novel experimental tool, which can be used in vivo for cell tracing experiments. Furthermore it allows investigating the impact of various regulatory proteins (e.g. endoglin) on profibrogenic signal transduction, differentiation and hepatic stellate cell biology.
Four and one half LIM domain protein 2 (FHL2) has been reported to be a key regulator in many cellular processes being associated with fibrogenesis such as cell migration and contraction. Moreover, hepatic FHL2 is involved in regulation pathways mediating proliferation and cell death machineries. We here investigated the role of FHL2 in the setting of experimental and clinical liver fibrosis.
FHL2−/− and wild type (wt) mice were challenged with CCl4. Fibrotic response was assessed by quantitative real time PCR (qRT-PCR) of fibrotic marker genes, measurement of hydroxyproline content and histological methods. Murine FHL2−/− and hepatic stellate cells (HSC) were isolated and investigated via immunofluorescence. Human fibrotic and normal liver samples were analysed immunohistochemically using antibodies directed against FHL2.
FHL2−/− mice displayed aggravated liver fibrosis compared to wt mice. However, immunofluorescence revealed no significant morphological changes in cultured FHL2−/− and wt myofibroblasts (MFB). In human liver samples, FHL2 was strongly expressed both in the nucleus and cytoplasm in MFB of fibrotic livers. In contrast, FHL2 expression was absent in normal liver tissue.
Deficiency of FHL2 results in aggravation of murine liver fibrosis. In human liver samples, FHL2 is expressed in activated HSCs and portal fibroblasts in human fibrotic livers, pointing to a central role of FHL2 for human hepatic fibrogenesis as well.
During inflammation, the inflammasomes representing a group of multi-protein complexes trigger the biological maturation of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-1β and interleukin-18 by proteolytic activation of caspase-1 from its inactive proforms. The individual genes encoding components of the inflammasome machinery are regulated at transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. Once activated, they drive a wide variety of cellular responses that are necessary to mediate host defense against microbial pathogens and to guarantee tissue homeostasis. In the present work, we have studied the expression of the different inflammasomes in various primary hepatic cell subpopulations, in models of acute inflammation and during experimental liver fibrogenesis. We demonstrate that NLRP-1, NLRP-3 and AIM2 are prominently expressed in Kupffer cells and liver sinusoidal endothelial cells, moderately expressed in periportal myofibroblasts and hepatic stellate cells, and virtually absent in primary cultured hepatocytes. We found that the challenge with the lipopolysaccharides results in a time- and concentration-dependent expression of the NOD-like receptor family members NLRP-1, NLRP-3 and NLRC4/NALP4 in cultured hepatic stellate cells and a strong transcriptional activation of NLRP-3 in hepatocytes. Moreover, we detect a diverse regulatory network of the different inflammasomes in the chosen experimental models of acute and chronic liver insult suggesting that the various inflammasomes might contribute simultaneously to the outcome of inflammatory and fibrotic liver insult, irrespectively of the underlying inflammatory stimulus.
Hepatic inflammation; Inflammasome; Animal models; Hepatocytes; Hepatic stellate cells; Kupffer cells
The soluble interleukin-2 receptor (sIL-2R, sIL2R, sTAC, sCD25) is a reliable biomarker for disease activity in inflammatory disorders such as sarcoidosis. Based on the essential pathogenic role of inflammation for progression of liver diseases, we hypothesized that sIL-2R might be an indicator of inflammatory cell activation and disease severity in patients with chronic liver diseases (CLD).
We measured sIL-2R serum levels in 71 patients with different stages and etiologies of CLD in comparison to 41 healthy controls. Serum sIL-2R concentrations were correlated with laboratory markers of liver diseases, cytokine / chemokine levels and circulating immune cell subpopulations as simultaneously assessed by FACS analysis from peripheral leukocytes.
CLD patients showed significantly elevated serum sIL-2R levels compared with controls. sIL-2R was significantly higher in patients with compared to patients without established liver cirrhosis and increased with the Child-Pugh stage of cirrhosis, independent of the underlying etiology. sIL-2R levels correlated inversely with parameters indicating the hepatic biosynthetic capacity, such as albumin or international normalized ratio, and positively with non-invasive markers of liver fibrosis such as hyaluronic acid or procollagen-III-peptide. Circulating immune cells might represent a major source of sIL-2R. In fact, sIL2-R levels correlated closely with circulating monocytes, especially non-classical CD14+ CD16+ monocytes, which were found to express high levels of CD25 by FACS. Pro-inflammatory cytokines, including IL-2, IFNγ or IL-6, and chemokines were also associated with sIL2-R. In addition, renal failure was an important confounder of sIL-2R levels independent of liver dysfunction and inflammation.
sIL-2R is elevated in patients with liver diseases and cirrhosis, is associated with circulating inflammatory cells and is increased in concomitant renal failure. These data indicate that sIL-2R might be a potential marker for immune cell activation in CLD, especially for proinflammatory and profibrogenic non-classical CD14 + CD16+ monocytes.
Liver cirrhosis; Liver fibrosis; Interleukin-2; CD25; Monocytes; Macrophages
Parietal epithelial cells (PECs) are crucially involved in the pathogenesis of rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis (RPGN) as well as in focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). In this study, transgenic mouse lines were used to isolate pure, genetically tagged primary cultures of PECs or podocytes using FACsorting. By this approach, the morphology of primary glomerular epithelial cells in culture could be resolved: Primary podocytes formed either large cells with intracytoplasmatic extensions or smaller spindle shaped cells, depending on specific culture conditions. Primary PECs were small and exhibited a spindle-shaped or polygonal morphology. In the very early phases of primary culture, rapid changes in gene expression (e.g. of WT-1 and Pax-2) were observed. However, after prolonged culture primary PECs and podocytes still segregated clearly in a transcriptome analysis - demonstrating that the origin of primary cell cultures is important. Of the classical markers, synaptopodin and podoplanin expression were differentially regulated the most in primary PEC and podocyte cultures. However, no expression of any endogenous gene allowed to differentiate between the two cell types in culture. Finally, we show that the transcription factor WT1 is also expressed by PECs. In summary, genetic tagging of PECs and podocytes is a novel and necessary tool to derive pure primary cultures with proven origin. These cultures will be a powerful tool for the emerging field of parietal epithelial cell biology.
Nephroblastoma overexpressed gene encodes a matricellular protein (CCN3/NOV) of the CCN family, comprising CCN1 (CYR61), CCN2 (CTGF), CCN4 (WISP-1), CCN5 (WISP-2), and CCN6 (WISP-3). CCN proteins are involved in the regulation of mitosis, adhesion, apoptosis, extracellular matrix production, growth arrest and migration in multiple cell types. Compared to CCN2/CTGF, known as a profibrotic protein, the biological role of CCN3/NOV in liver fibrosis remains obscure. In this study we showed ccn3/nov mRNA to increase dramatically following hepatic stellate cell activation, reaching peak levels in fully transdifferentiated myofibroblasts. In models of experimental hepatic fibrosis, CCN3/NOV increased significantly at the mRNA and protein levels. CCN3/NOV was found mainly in non-parenchymal cells along the areas of tissue damage and repair. In the bile-duct ligation model, CCN3/NOV was localized mainly along portal tracts, while the repeated application of carbon tetrachloride resulted in CCN3/NOV expression mainly in the centrilobular areas. In contrast to CCN2/CTGF, the profibrotic cytokines platelet-derived growth factor-B and -D as well as transforming growth factor-β suppressed CCN3/NOV expression. In vitro, CCN3/NOV siRNA attenuated migration in the cirrhotic fat storing cell line CFSC well in line with in vivo findings that various types of cells expressing CCN3/NOV migrate into the area of tissue damage and regeneration. The suppression of CCN3/NOV enhanced expression of profibrotic marker proteins, such as α-smooth muscle actin, collagen type I, fibronectin, CCN2/CTGF and TIMP-1 in primary rat hepatic stellate cells and in CFSC. We further found that adenoviral overexpression of CCN2/CTGF suppressed CCN3/NOV expression, while the overexpression of CCN3/NOV as well as the suppression of CCN3/NOV by targeting siRNAs both resulted in enhanced CCN2/CTGF expression. These results indicate the complexity of CCN actions that are far beyond the classic Yin/Yang interplay.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12079-011-0141-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
CCN protein; CCN3/NOV; CCN2/CTGF; Hepatic stellate cells; Myofibroblasts; Hepatocytes; Inflammation; Yin/Yang; Fibrosis; Animal models
AIM: To investigate whether human acyl-CoA synthetase 5 (ACSL5) is sensitive to the ACSL inhibitor triacsin C.
METHODS: The ACSL isoforms ACSL1 and ACSL5 from rat as well as human ACSL5 were cloned and recombinantly expressed as 6xHis-tagged enzymes. Ni2+-affinity purified recombinant enzymes were assayed at pH 7.5 or pH 9.5 in the presence or absence of triacsin C. In addition, ACSL5 transfected CaCo2 cells and intestinal human mucosa were monitored. ACSL5 expression in cellular systems was verified using Western blot and immunofluorescence. The ACSL assay mix included TrisHCl (pH 7.4), ATP, CoA, EDTA, DTT, MgCl2, [9,10-3H] palmitic acid, and triton X-100. The 200 μL reaction was initiated with the addition of solubilized, purified recombinant proteins or cellular lysates. Reactions were terminated after 10, 30 or 60 min of incubation with Doles medium.
RESULTS: Expression of soluble recombinant ACSL proteins was found after incubation with isopropyl beta-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside and after ultracentrifugation these were further purified to near homogeneity with Ni2+-affinity chromatography. Triacsin C selectively and strongly inhibited recombinant human ACSL5 protein at pH 7.5 and pH 9.5, as well as recombinant rat ACSL1 (sensitive control), but not recombinant rat ACSL5 (insensitive control). The IC50 for human ACSL5 was about 10 μmol/L. The inhibitory triacsin C effect was similar for different incubation times (10, 30 and 60 min) and was not modified by the N- or C-terminal location of the 6xHis-tag. In order to evaluate ACSL5 sensitivity to triacsin C in a cellular environment, stable human ACSL5 CaCo2 transfectants and mechanically dissected normal human intestinal mucosa with high physiological expression of ACSL5 were analyzed. In both models, ACSL5 peak activity was found at pH 7.5 and pH 9.5, corresponding to the properties of recombinant human ACSL5 protein. In the presence of triacsin C (25 μmol/L), total ACSL activity was dramatically diminished in human ACSL5 transfectants as well as in ACSL5-rich human intestinal mucosa.
CONCLUSION: The data strongly indicate that human ACSL5 is sensitive to triacsin C and does not compensate for other triacsin C-sensitive ACSL isoforms.
Acyl-CoA synthetase 5; Fatty acid metabolism; Mitochondria; Triacsin C
The CCN family of proteins, especially its prominent member, the Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF/CCN2) has been identified as a possible biomarker for the diagnosis of fibrotic diseases. As a downstream mediator of TGF-β1 signalling, it is involved in tissue scarring, stimulates interstitial deposition of extracellular matrix proteins, and promotes proliferation of several cell types. Another member of this family, the Nephroblastoma-Overexpressed protein (NOV/CCN3), has growth-inhibiting properties. First reports further suggest that these two CCN family members act opposite to each other in regulating extracellular matrix protein expression and reciprocally influence their own expression when over-expressed. We have established stable HEK and Flp-In-293 clones as productive sources for recombinant human CCN2/CTGF. In addition, we generated an adenoviral vector for recombinant expression of rat NOV and established protocols to purify large quantities of these CCN proteins. The identity of purified human CCN2/CTGF and rat CCN3/NOV was proven by In-gel digest followed by ESI-TOF/MS mass spectrometry. The biological activity of purified proteins was demonstrated using a Smad3-sensitive reporter gene and BrdU proliferation assay in permanent cell line EA•hy 926 cells. We further demonstrate for the first time that both recombinant CCN proteins are N-glycosylated.
Free fatty acids are essential dietary components and recognized as important molecules in the maintenance of cellular homeostasis. In the last decade, the molecular pathways for free fatty acid sensing in the gastrointestinal tract have been further elucidated by molecular identification and functional characterization of fatty acid binding receptors. These sensing molecules belong to the family of G protein-coupled receptors. In the intestine, four important receptors have been described so far. They differ in molecular structure, ligand specificity, expression pattern, and functional properties. In this review, an overview of intestinal fatty acid binding receptors and their role in intestinal physiology and pathophysiology is given.
G protein; Intestine; Free fatty acid; Receptor
Activation of hepatic stellate cells in response to chronic inflammation represents a crucial step in the development of liver fibrosis. However, the molecules involved in the interaction between immune cells and stellate cells remain obscure. Herein, we identify the chemokine CCL5 (also known as RANTES), which is induced in murine and human liver after injury, as a central mediator of this interaction. First, we showed in patients with liver fibrosis that CCL5 haplotypes and intrahepatic CCL5 mRNA expression were associated with severe liver fibrosis. Consistent with this, we detected Ccl5 mRNA and CCL5 protein in 2 mouse models of liver fibrosis, induced by either injection of carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) or feeding on a methionine and choline–deficient (MCD) diet. In these models, Ccl5–/– mice exhibited decreased hepatic fibrosis, with reduced stellate cell activation and immune cell infiltration. Transplantation of Ccl5-deficient bone marrow into WT recipients attenuated liver fibrosis, identifying infiltrating hematopoietic cells as the main source of Ccl5. We then showed that treatment with the CCL5 receptor antagonist Met-CCL5 inhibited cultured stellate cell migration, proliferation, and chemokine and collagen secretion. Importantly, in vivo administration of Met-CCL5 greatly ameliorated liver fibrosis in mice and was able to accelerate fibrosis regression. Our results define a successful therapeutic approach to reduce experimental liver fibrosis by antagonizing Ccl5 receptors.
Hyperglycemia and insulin resistance are well-known features of critical illness and impact the mortality rate, especially in sepsis. Retinol binding protein 4 (RBP4) promotes insulin resistance in mice and is systemically elevated in patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes. We investigated the potential role of RBP4 in critically ill patients.
We conducted a prospective single-center study of serum RBP4 concentrations in critically ill patients. One hundred twenty-three patients (85 with sepsis, 38 without sepsis) were studied at admission to a medical intensive care unit (ICU) before initiation of specific intensive care treatment measures and compared to 42 healthy nondiabetic controls. Clinical data, various laboratory parameters and metabolic and endocrine functions were assessed. Patients were followed for approximately 3 years.
Serum RBP4 was significantly reduced in ICU patients, independently of sepsis, as compared to healthy controls (P < 0.001). Patients with liver cirrhosis as the primary underlying diagnosis for ICU admission had significantly lower RBP4 levels as compared with other ICU patients. Accordingly, in all ICU patients, serum RBP4 closely correlated with liver function and increased with renal failure. No significant differences of serum RBP4 concentrations in septic patients with pulmonary or other origins of sepsis or nonseptic patients could be revealed. Acute phase proteins were inversely correlated with RBP4 in sepsis patients. RBP4 did not differ between patients with or without obesity or preexisting diabetes. However, serum RBP4 levels correlated with endogenous insulin secretion (C-peptide) and insulin resistance (HOMA index). Low serum RBP4 upon admission was an adverse predictor of short-term survival in the ICU, but was not associated with overall survival during long-term follow-up.
Serum RBP4 concentrations are significantly reduced in critically ill patients. The strong associations with hepatic and renal function, insulin resistance and acute mortality collectively suggest a role of RBP4 in the pathogenesis of critical illness, possibly as a negative acute phase reactant, and allow a proposition as a potential novel biomarker for ICU patients.
The adipocyte-derived cytokine leptin was implicated to link inflammation and metabolic alterations. We investigated the potential role of leptin components in critically ill patients, because systemic inflammation, insulin resistance, and hyperglycemia are common features of critical illness. Upon admission to Medical Intensive Care Unit (ICU), free leptin and soluble leptin-receptor serum concentrations were determined in 137 critically ill patients (95 with sepsis, 42 without sepsis) and 26 healthy controls. Serum leptin or leptin-receptor did not differ between patients or controls and were independent of sepsis. However, serum leptin was closely associated with obesity and diabetes and clearly correlated with markers of metabolism and liver function. Leptin-receptor was an unfavourable prognostic indicator, associated with mortality during three years follow-up. Our study indicates a functional role of leptin in the pathogenesis of severe illness and emphasizes the impact of complex metabolic alterations on the clinical outcome of critically ill patients.
Interleukin (IL)-27 is a cytokine belonging to the IL-6/IL-12 cytokine family that is secreted by activated macrophages and dendritic cells and which strongly acts on T-cells and cells of the innate immune system. Not much is known about possible effects of IL-27 on other cell types. It signals via the common IL-6-type-cytokine receptor chain gp130 and the IL-27-specific chain WSX-1. We previously described that IL-27 also stimulates hepatoma cells and primary hepatocytes. The aim of this study was to investigate whether IL-27 would also act on hepatic stellate cells (HSC), the second most abundant hepatic cell type, which would demonstrate a more general role of this cytokine in the liver.
Using a human HSC line and primary rat HSC we investigated the signalling characteristics of IL-27 in these cells. We show that IL-27 activates signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 1 and to a minor extent STAT3 in a human HSC cell line and that it leads to the induction of STAT1 target genes such as interferon response factor-1, myxovirus resistance A and STAT1 itself. Similarly we find that IL-27 also elicits STAT1-dependent responses in primary rat HSC.
We provide the first evidence for a function of IL-27 in HSC and show that its responses resemble Interferon-γ-like functions in these cells. Our data suggests that IL-27 may play an important role in the context of liver inflammation by acting on the different liver cell types.
Background & Aims
E-cyclins control the transition of quiescent cells into the cell cycle. Two E-cyclins, CcnE1 and CcnE2, have been described, but their specific contributions to cell cycle re-entry in vivo are poorly understood. Liver regeneration following partial hepatectomy (PH) is an excellent in vivo model for the study of cell cycle re-entry of quiescent cells. We investigated the relevance of E-cyclins in directing resting hepatocytes into the cell cycle after PH using CcnE1 and CcnE2 knockout mice.
Partial hepatectomy (70%) was performed in CcnE1 (E1-/-) and CcnE2 (E2-/-) knockout and wild-type (WT) mice. Liver regeneration was monitored by cell cycle markers for G1/S-Phase, S-phase and M-phase as well as by determining the liver–body weight ratio after PH. Ploidy of hepatocytes was determined by fluorescence-activated cell sorting and fluorescent in situ hybridization.
CcnE1 deletion resulted in normal liver regeneration with a slight delay of the G1/S-phase transition and a defect in endoreplication of otherwise polyploid hepatocytes. Surprisingly, E2-/- mice displayed accelerated and sustained DNA synthesis after PH, excessive endoreplication in hepatocytes, and a liver mass that was 45% greater than that of WT mice after termination of the regeneration process. CcnE2 depletion induced over-expression of CcnE1 and prolonged cdk2 kinase activity after PH.
CcnE2 has an unexpected role in repressing CcnE1; the phenotype of E2-/- mice appears to result from CcnE1 over-expression and cdk2 hyper-activation. CcnE1 and CcnE2 therefore have non-redundant functions for S-phase entry and endoreplication during liver regeneration.
BACKGROUND & AIMS
Fibrosis is the hallmark of chronic liver diseases, yet many aspects of its mechanism remain to be defined. Chemokines are ubiquitous chemotactic molecules that mediate many acute and chronic inflammatory conditions, and CXC chemokine genes colocalize with a locus previously shown to include fibrogenic genes. We investigated the roles of the chemokine CXCL9 and its receptor CXCR3 in liver fibrosis.
The effects of CXCL variants on fibrogenesis were analyzed using samples from patients with hepatitis C virus infection and by induction of fibrosis in CXCR3−/− and wild-type mice. In mice, intrahepatic immune cell subsets were investigated and interferon gamma messenger RNA levels were measured at baseline and after injury. Human serum CXCL9 levels were measured and correlated with CXCL9 variant and fibrosis severity. The effects of stimulation with CXCL9 were investigated on human hepatic stellate cells (LX-2).
Specific CXCL9 variants were associated with liver fibrosis in mice and humans; CXCL9 serum concentrations correlated with genotypes and levels of fibrosis in patients. In contrast to other chemokines, CXCL9 exerted antifibrotic effects in vitro, suppressing collagen production in LX-2 cells. CXCR3−/− mice had increased liver fibrosis; progression was associated with decreased numbers of intra-hepatic interferon gamma–positive T cells and reduced interferon gamma messenger RNA, indicating that CXCL9-CXCR3 regulates Th1-associated immune pathways.
This is the first description of a chemokine-based antifibrotic pathway in the liver; antifibrotic therapies might be developed to modulate CXC chemokine levels.
Computer-based morphometry can minimize subjectivity in the assessment of liver fibrosis. An image processing program was developed with Delphi for the quantification of fibrosis in liver tissue samples stained with Sirius Red. Bile duct ligated and sham operated wild type C57BL/6 mice served as a model of time-dependent induction of liver fibrosis. Formation of fibrosis was determined with the developed software at day 0, 3, 7, 10, 14, 20, 30 and 60. The results were compared to a semi-quantitative scoring system.
Quantitative accumulation of collagen fibres was observed from day 3 to day 14, with a slight further increase thereafter. During ongoing fibrogenesis, there was a significant elevation of alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate transaminase (AST) and bilirubin. The results from our computer-based morphometric analysis were highly correlated with the results that were obtained in a standardized pathology semi-quantitative scoring system (R 2 = 0.89, n = 38).
Using our Delphi-based image analysing software, the morphometric assessment of fibrosis is as precise as semi-quantitative scoring by an experienced pathologist. This program can be a valuable tool in any kind of experimental or clinical setting for standardized quantitative assessment of fibrosis.
Monocyte-derived macrophages critically perpetuate inflammatory responses after liver injury as a prerequisite for organ fibrosis. Experimental murine models identified an essential role for the CCR2-dependent infiltration of classical Gr1/Ly6C+ monocytes in hepatic fibrosis. Moreover, the monocyte-related chemokine receptors CCR1 and CCR5 were recently recognized as important fibrosis modulators in mice. In humans, monocytes consist of classical CD14+CD16− and non-classical CD14+CD16+ cells. We aimed at investigating the relevance of monocyte subpopulations for human liver fibrosis, and hypothesized that ‘non-classical’ monocytes critically exert inflammatory as well as profibrogenic functions in patients during liver disease progression.
We analyzed circulating monocyte subsets from freshly drawn blood samples of 226 patients with chronic liver disease (CLD) and 184 healthy controls by FACS analysis. Circulating monocytes were significantly expanded in CLD-patients compared to controls with a marked increase of the non-classical CD14+CD16+ subset that showed an activated phenotype in patients and correlated with proinflammatory cytokines and clinical progression. Correspondingly, CD14+CD16+ macrophages massively accumulated in fibrotic/cirrhotic livers, as evidenced by immunofluorescence and FACS. Ligands of monocyte-related chemokine receptors CCR2, CCR1 and CCR5 were expressed at higher levels in fibrotic and cirrhotic livers, while CCL3 and CCL4 were also systemically elevated in CLD-patients. Isolated monocyte/macrophage subpopulations were functionally characterized regarding cytokine/chemokine expression and interactions with primary human hepatic stellate cells (HSC) in vitro. CD14+CD16+ monocytes released abundant proinflammatory cytokines. Furthermore, CD14+CD16+, but not CD14+CD16− monocytes could directly activate collagen-producing HSC.
Our data demonstrate the expansion of CD14+CD16+ monocytes in the circulation and liver of CLD-patients upon disease progression and suggest their functional contribution to the perpetuation of intrahepatic inflammation and profibrogenic HSC activation in liver cirrhosis. The modulation of monocyte-subset recruitment into the liver via chemokines/chemokine receptors and their subsequent differentiation may represent promising approaches for therapeutic interventions in human liver fibrosis.
The cysteine and glycine rich protein 2 (CRP2) encoded by the Csrp2 gene is a LIM domain protein expressed in the vascular system, particularly in smooth muscle cells. It exhibits a bimodal subcellular distribution, accumulating at actin-based filaments in the cytosol and in the nucleus. In order to analyze the function of CRP2 in vivo, we disrupted the Csrp2 gene in mice and analysed the resulting phenotype.
A ~17.3 kbp fragment of the murine Csrp2 gene containing exon 3 through 6 was isolated. Using this construct we confirmed the recently determined chromosomal localization (Chromosome 10, best fit location between markers D10Mit203 proximal and D10Mit150 central). A gene disruption cassette was cloned into exon 4 and a mouse strain lacking functional Csrp2 was generated. Mice lacking CRP2 are viable and fertile and have no obvious deficits in reproduction and survival. However, detailed histological and electron microscopic studies reveal that CRP2-deficient mice have subtle alterations in their cardiac ultrastructure. In these mice, the cardiomyocytes display a slight increase in their thickness, indicating moderate hypertrophy at the cellular level. Although the expression of several intercalated disc-associated proteins such as β-catenin, N-RAP and connexin-43 were not affected in these mice, the distribution of respective proteins was changed within heart tissue.
We conclude that the lack of CRP2 is associated with alterations in cardiomyocyte thickness and hypertrophy.
Despite intensive studies, the clinical opportunities for patients with fibrosing liver diseases have not improved. This will be changed by increasing knowledge of new pathogenetic mechanisms, which complement the "canonical principle" of fibrogenesis. The latter is based on the activation of hepatic stellate cells and their transdifferentiation to myofibroblasts induced by hepatocellular injury and consecutive inflammatory mediators such as TGF-β. Stellate cells express a broad spectrum of matrix components. New mechanisms indicate that the heterogeneous pool of (myo-)fibroblasts can be supplemented by epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) from cholangiocytes and potentially also from hepatocytes to fibroblasts, by influx of bone marrow-derived fibrocytes in the damaged liver tissue and by differentiation of a subgroup of monocytes to fibroblasts after homing in the damaged tissue. These processes are regulated by the cytokines TGF-β and BMP-7, chemokines, colony-stimulating factors, metalloproteinases and numerous trapping proteins. They offer innovative diagnostic and therapeutic options. As an example, modulation of TGF-β/BMP-7 ratio changes the rate of EMT, and so the simultaneous determination of these parameters and of connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) in serum might provide information on fibrogenic activity. The extension of pathogenetic concepts of fibrosis will provide new therapeutic possibilities of interference with the fibrogenic mechanism in liver and other organs.
Clefts of the lip, alveolus, and palate (CLPs) rank among the most frequent and significant congenital malformations. Leu10Pro and Arg25Pro polymorphisms in the precursor region and Thr263Ile polymorphism in the prodomain of the transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1) gene have proved to be crucial to predisposition of several disorders.
In this study, polymorphism analysis was performed by real-time polymerase chain reaction (LightCycler) and TGF-β1 levels determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Only 2/60 Caucasian non-syndromic patients with CLP (3.3%) carried the Arg25Pro and another 2/60 patients (3.3%) the Thr263Ile genotypes, whereas, in a control group of 60 healthy Caucasian blood donors, these heterozygous genotypes were more frequent 16.7% having Arg25Pro (10/60; p < 0.035) and 10,0% having Thr263Ile (6/60), respectively. TGF-β1 levels in platelet-poor plasma of heterozygous Arg25Pro individuals were lower than those of homozygous members (Arg25Arg) in the latter group, but this discrepancy narrowly failed to be significant. Although polymorphisms in codon 10 and 25 were associated with each other, no difference was found between patients and controls concerning the Leu10Pro polymorphism.
The genetic differences in codons 25 and 263 suggest that TGF-β1 could play an important role in occurrence of CLP, however, functional experiments will be required to confirm the mechanisms of disturbed development.
Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) is a key mediator in establishing liver fibrosis. Therefore, TGF-β as a causative agent may serve as a primary target for antifibrotic gene therapy approaches. We have previously shown that the adenoviral delivery of a transgene constitutively expressing a TGF-β1 antisense mRNA blocks TGF-β synthesis in culture-activated hepatic stellate cells and effectively abolishes ongoing fibrogenesis in vitro.
Ligature of the common bile duct was used to induce liver fibrosis in rats. The effect of the TGF-β1 antisense on fibrogenesis was analyzed in this model of liver injury.
In the present study, we demonstrate that the adenoviral vector directs the synthesis of mRNA quantities that are approximately 8000-fold more abundant than endogenous TGF-β1 mRNA. In experimentally injured rat livers induced by ligature of the common bile duct, a model for persistent fibrogenesis and cirrhosis, administration of the adenoviral vector abrogates TGF-β-enhanced production of collagen and α-smooth muscle actin. Furthermore, the number of cells positive for α-smooth muscle actin resulting from active recruitment of activated hepatic stellate cells around the bile ductular structures was significantly reduced in animals after application of Ad5-CMV-AS-TGF-β1. However, the observed elevated serum levels of aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, and bilirubin induced in this obstructive liver injury model were not significantly altered in the presence of the TGF-β antagonist.
Taken together, our data provides in vivo evidence that the delivery of TGF-β1 antisense mRNA specifically abolishes the diverse effects of direct TGF-β function in ongoing liver fibrogenesis. Therefore, we conclude that the expressed transgene is therapeutically useful for inhibition of TGF-β effects in diverse applications, ranging from clarification of TGF-β function in the course of liver injury to the development of novel gene therapeutic approaches.
The hepatic stellate cell is the primary cell type responsible for the excessive formation and deposition of connective tissue elements during the development of hepatic fibrosis in chronically injured liver. Culturing quiescent hepatic stellate cells on plastic causes spontaneous activation leading to a myofibroblastic phenotype similar to that seen in vivo. This provides a simple model system for studying activation and transdifferentiation of these cells. The introduction of exogenous DNA into these cells is discussed controversially mainly due to the lack of systematic analysis. Therefore, we examined comparatively five nonviral, lipid-mediated gene transfer methods and adenoviral based infection, as potential tools for efficient delivery of DNA to rat hepatic stellate cells and their transdifferentiated counterpart, i.e. myofibroblasts. Transfection conditions were determined using enhanced green fluorescent protein as a reporter expressed under the transcriptional control of the human cytomegalovirus immediate early gene 1 promoter/enhancer.
With the use of chemically enhanced transfection methods, the highest relative efficiency was obtained with FuGENE™6 gene mediated DNA transfer. Quantitative evaluation of representative transfection experiments by flow cytometry revealed that approximately 6% of the rat hepatic stellate cells were transfected. None of the transfection methods tested was able to mediate gene delivery to rat myofibroblasts. To analyze if rat hepatic stellate cells and myofibroblasts are susceptible to adenoviral infection, we have inserted the transgenic expression cassette into a recombinant adenoviral type 5 genome as replacement for the E1 region. Viral particles of this replication-deficient Ad5-based reporter are able to infect 100% of rat hepatic stellate cells and myofibroblasts, respectively.
Our results indicate that FuGENE™6-based methods may be optimized sufficiently to offer a feasible approach for gene transfer into rat hepatic stellate cells. The data further demonstrate that adenoviral mediated transfer is a promising approach for gene delivery to these hepatic cells.