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2.  Lipocalin 2 (LCN2) Expression in Hepatic Malfunction and Therapy 
Lipocalin 2 (LCN2) is a secreted protein that belongs to the Lipocalins, a group of transporters of small lipophilic molecules such as steroids, lipopolysaccharides, iron, and fatty acids in circulation. Two decades after its discovery and after a high variety of published findings, LCN2's altered expression has been assigned to critical roles in several pathological organ conditions, including liver injury and steatosis, renal damage, brain injury, cardiomyopathies, muscle-skeletal disorders, lung infection, and cancer in several organs. The significance of this 25-kDa lipocalin molecule has been impressively increased during the last years. Data from several studies indicate the role of LCN2 in physiological conditions as well as in response to cellular stress and injury. LCN2 in the liver shows a protective role in acute and chronic injury models where its expression is highly elevated. Moreover, LCN2 expression is being considered as a potential strong biomarker for pathological conditions, including rheumatic diseases, cancer in human organs, hepatic steatosis, hepatic damage, and inflammation. In this review, we summarize experimental and clinical findings linking LCN2 to the pathogenesis of liver disease.
PMCID: PMC5037186  PMID: 27729871
inflammation; liver; biomarker; alcoholic fatty liver disease; non-alcoholic steatohepatitis; matrix metalloproteinases; liver failure; hepatic disease
3.  Exercise-Induced Release of Pharmacologically Active Substances and Their Relevance for Therapy of Hepatic Injury 
Chronic liver disease (CLD) features constant parenchymal injury and repair together with an increasing hepatic impairment, finally leading to fibrosis and cirrhosis and a heightened risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Closely related to the rise in obesity, the worldwide prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, the most common form of CLD, has reached an epidemic dimension and is estimated to afflict up to 46% of the general population, including more than one out of three U.S. citizens. Up to now there is no effective drug treatment available, which is why recommendations encompass both exercise programs and changes in dietary habits. Exercise is well-known for unleashing potent anti-inflammatory effects, which can principally counteract liver inflammation and chronic low-grade inflammation. This review article summarizes the underlying mechanisms responsible for the exercise-mediated anti-inflammatory effects, illustrates the application in animal models as well as in humans, and highlights the therapeutic value when possible. Based on the available results there is no doubt that exercise can even be beneficial in an advanced stage of liver disease and it is the goal of this review article to provide evidence for the therapeutic impact on fibrosis, cirrhosis, and HCC and to assess whether exercise might be of value as adjuvant therapy in the treatment of CLD. In principle, all exercise programs carried out in these high-risk patients should be guided and observed by qualified healthcare professionals to guarantee the patients’ safety. Nevertheless, it is also necessary to additionally determine the optimal amount and intensity of exercise to maximize its value, which is why further studies are essential.
PMCID: PMC5003891  PMID: 27625607
exercise; liver fibrosis; regulatory T cells; cytokines; adaptive immune system; cortisol; monocytes; inflammation
4.  Editorial: Liver Myofibroblasts 
PMCID: PMC4974826  PMID: 27547190
myofibroblasts; liver fibrosis; hepatic stellate cells; portal fibroblasts; transdifferentiation; TGF-β; therapy
5.  Isolation of Mature (Peritoneum-Derived) Mast Cells and Immature (Bone Marrow-Derived) Mast Cell Precursors from Mice 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(6):e0158104.
Mast cells (MCs) are a versatile cell type playing key roles in tissue morphogenesis and host defence against bacteria and parasites. Furthermore, they can enhance immunological danger signals and are implicated in inflammatory disorders like fibrosis. This granulated cell type originates from the myeloid lineage and has similarities to basophilic granulocytes, both containing large quantities of histamine and heparin. Immature murine mast cells mature in their destination tissue and adopt either the connective tissue (CTMC) or mucosal (MMC) type. Some effector functions are executed by activation/degranulation of MCs which lead to secretion of a typical set of MC proteases (MCPT) and of the preformed or newly synthesized mediators from its granules into the local microenvironment. Due to the potential accumulation of mutations in key signalling pathway components of corresponding MC cell-lines, primary cultured MCs are an attractive mean to study general features of MC biology and aspects of MC functions relevant to human disease. Here, we describe a simple protocol for the simultaneous isolation of mature CTMC-like murine MCs from the peritoneum (PMCs) and immature MC precursors from the bone marrow (BM). The latter are differentiated in vitro to yield BM-derived MCs (BMMC). These cells display the typical morphological and phenotypic features of MCs, express the typical MC surface markers, and can be propagated and kept in culture for several weeks. The provided protocol allows simple amplification of large quantities of homogenous, non-transformed MCs from the peritoneum and bone marrow-derived mast cells for cell- and tissue-based biomedical research.
PMCID: PMC4918956  PMID: 27337047
6.  Intratumor heterogeneity, variability and plasticity: questioning the current concepts in classification and treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma 
In the classical view, the formation of a primary tumor is the consequence of a mutational event that first affects a single cell that subsequently passes through a multitude of consecutive hyperplastic and dysplastic stages. At the end of this pathogenetic sequence a cell arises that is potentially able to expanse infinitely having capacity to form a homogenous tumor mass. In contrary to this clonal expansion concept, the majority of primary human tumors display already a startling heterogeneity that can be reflected in different morphological features, physiological activities, and genetic diversity. In the past it was speculated that this cancer cell plasticity within a tumor is the result of an adaptive process that is induced by specific inhibiting therapies. In regard to the formation of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) this dogma was once challenged in a recent study that analysed tumor areas that were taken from HCC patients without medical pretreatment. Most of the analyzed samples showed highly significant intratumor heterogeneity. This affected morphological attributes, immunohistochemical stainability of five tumor-associated markers [α-fetoprotein (AFP), EpCAM, CK7, CD44 and glutamine synthetase], and integrity of genes (β-catenin and p53) that are critically involved in the pathogenesis of HCC. Altogether, this study showed that intratumor heterogeneity is a frequent finding in HCC that may contribute to treatment failure and drug resistance in HCC patients.
PMCID: PMC4824750  PMID: 27115013
Cancer stem cell model; clonal evolution model; stochastic model; hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC); subclone; tumor diversification
7.  Pharmacological Intervention in Hepatic Stellate Cell Activation and Hepatic Fibrosis 
The activation and transdifferentiation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) into contractile, matrix-producing myofibroblasts (MFBs) are central events in hepatic fibrogenesis. These processes are driven by autocrine- and paracrine-acting soluble factors (i.e., cytokines and chemokines). Proof-of-concept studies of the last decades have shown that both the deactivation and removal of hepatic MFBs as well as antagonizing profibrogenic factors are in principle suitable to attenuate ongoing hepatic fibrosis. Although several drugs show potent antifibrotic activities in experimental models of hepatic fibrosis, there is presently no effective pharmaceutical intervention specifically approved for the treatment of liver fibrosis. Pharmaceutical interventions are generally hampered by insufficient supply of drugs to the diseased liver tissue and/or by adverse effects as a result of affecting non-target cells. Therefore, targeted delivery systems that bind specifically to receptors solely expressed on activated HSCs or transdifferentiated MFBs and delivery systems that can improve drug distribution to the liver in general are urgently needed. In this review, we summarize current strategies for targeted delivery of drugs to the liver and in particular to pro-fibrogenic liver cells. The applicability and efficacy of sequestering molecules, selective protein carriers, lipid-based drug vehicles, viral vectors, transcriptional targeting approaches, therapeutic liver- and HSC-specific nanoparticles, and miRNA-based strategies are discussed. Some of these delivery systems that had already been successfully tested in experimental animal models of ongoing hepatic fibrogenesis are expected to translate into clinically useful therapeutics specifically targeting HSCs.
PMCID: PMC4764688  PMID: 26941644
liver disease; drug targeting; gene therapy; differential expression; biomedicine; antifibrotic; fibrogenesis; translational medicine
8.  Hepatoprotective and Anti-fibrotic Agents: It's Time to Take the Next Step 
Hepatic fibrosis and cirrhosis cause strong human suffering and necessitate a monetary burden worldwide. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the development of therapies. Pre-clinical animal models are indispensable in the drug discovery and development of new anti-fibrotic compounds and are immensely valuable for understanding and proofing the mode of their proposed action. In fibrosis research, inbreed mice and rats are by far the most used species for testing drug efficacy. During the last decades, several hundred or even a thousand different drugs that reproducibly evolve beneficial effects on liver health in respective disease models were identified. However, there are only a few compounds (e.g., GR-MD-02, GM-CT-01) that were translated from bench to bedside. In contrast, the large number of drugs successfully tested in animal studies is repeatedly tested over and over engender findings with similar or identical outcome. This circumstance undermines the 3R (Replacement, Refinement, Reduction) principle of Russell and Burch that was introduced to minimize the suffering of laboratory animals. This ethical framework, however, represents the basis of the new animal welfare regulations in the member states of the European Union. Consequently, the legal authorities in the different countries are halted to foreclose testing of drugs in animals that were successfully tested before. This review provides a synopsis on anti-fibrotic compounds that were tested in classical rodent models. Their mode of action, potential sources and the observed beneficial effects on liver health are discussed. This review attempts to provide a reference compilation for all those involved in the testing of drugs or in the design of new clinical trials targeting hepatic fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC4703795  PMID: 26779021
hepatic fibrosis; 3R principle; therapy; animal experimentation; collagen; α-smooth muscle actin; clinical trials; translational medicine
9.  Abrogation of both short and long forms of Latent Transforming Growth Factor-β Binding Protein-1 causes defective cardiovascular development and is perinatally lethal 
Latent transforming growth factor-β binding protein-1 (LTBP-1) is an extracellular protein that is structurally similar to fibrillin and has an important role in controlling transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) signaling by storing the cytokine in the extracellular matrix and by being involved in the conversion of the latent growth factor to its active form. LTBP-1 is found as both a short (LTBP-1S) and long (LTBP-1L) forms, which are derived though the use of separate promoters. There is controversy regarding the importance of LTBP-1L, as Ltbp1L knockout mice showed multiple cardiovascular defects but the complete null mice did not. Here, we describe a third line of Ltbp1 knockout mice generated utilizing a conditional knockout strategy that ablated expression of both L and S forms of LTBP-1. These mice show severe developmental cardiovascular abnormalities and die perinatally; thus these animals display a phenotype similar to previously reported Ltbp1L knockout mice. We reinvestigated the other “complete” knockout line, and found that these mice express a splice variant of LTBP-1L and, therefore, are not complete Ltbp1 knockouts. Our results clarify the phenotypes of Ltbp1 null mice and re-emphasize the importance of LTBP-1 in vivo.
PMCID: PMC4547347  PMID: 25805620
Latent TGF-β binding protein; transforming growth factor β; persistent truncus arteriosus; conditional knockout mice
10.  Isolation and Time Lapse Microscopy of Highly Pure Hepatic Stellate Cells 
Hepatic stellate cells (HSC) are the main effector cells for liver fibrosis. We aimed at optimizing HSC isolation by an additional step of fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) via a UV laser. HSC were isolated from livers of healthy mice and animals subjected to experimental fibrosis. HSC isolation by iohexol- (Nycodenz) based density centrifugation was compared to a method with subsequent FACS-based sorting. We assessed cellular purity, viability, morphology, and functional properties like proliferation, migration, activation marker, and collagen expression. FACS-augmented isolation resulted in a significantly increased purity of stellate cells (>99%) compared to iohexol-based density centrifugation (60–95%), primarily by excluding doublets of HSC and Kupffer cells (KC). Importantly, this method is also applicable to young animals and mice with liver fibrosis. Viability, migratory properties, and HSC transdifferentiation in vitro were preserved upon FACS-based isolation, as assessed using time lapse microscopy. During maturation of HSC in culture, we did not observe HSC cell division using time lapse microscopy. Strikingly, FACS-isolated, differentiated HSC showed very limited molecular and functional responses to LPS stimulation. In conclusion, isolating HSC from mouse liver by additional FACS significantly increases cell purity by removing contaminations from other cell populations especially KC, without affecting HSC viability, migration, or differentiation.
PMCID: PMC4519541  PMID: 26258009
11.  The hop constituent xanthohumol exhibits hepatoprotective effects and inhibits the activation of hepatic stellate cells at different levels 
Xanthohumol is the principal prenylated flavonoid of the female inflorescences of the hop plant. In recent years, various beneficial xanthohumol effects including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, hypoglycemic activities, and anticancer effects have been revealed. This review summarizes present studies indicating that xanthohumol also inhibits several critical pathophysiological steps during the development and course of chronic liver disease, including the activation and pro-fibrogenic genotype of hepatic stellate cells. Also the various mechanism of action and molecular targets of the beneficial xanthohumol effects will be described. Furthermore, the potential use of xanthohumol or a xanthohumol-enriched hop extract as therapeutic agent to combat the progression of chronic liver disease will be discussed. It is notable that in addition to its hepatoprotective effects, xanthohumol also holds promise as a therapeutic agent for treating obesity, dysregulation of glucose metabolism and other components of the metabolic syndrome including hepatic steatosis. Thus, therapeutic xanthohumol application appears as a promising strategy, particularly in obese patients, to inhibit the development as well as the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
PMCID: PMC4422013  PMID: 25999863
xanthohumol; hops; fibrosis; hepatic stellate cells; liver disease
12.  Laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry imaging of metals in experimental and clinical Wilson's disease 
Wilson's disease is an autosomal recessive disorder in which the liver does not properly release copper into bile, resulting in prominent copper accumulation in various tissues. Affected patients suffer from hepatic disorders and severe neurological defects. Experimental studies in mutant mice in which the copper-transporting ATPase gene (Atp7b) is disrupted revealed a drastic, time-dependent accumulation of hepatic copper that is accompanied by formation of regenerative nodes resembling cirrhosis. Therefore, these mice represent an excellent exploratory model for Wilson's disease. However, the precise time course in hepatic copper accumulation and its impact on other trace metals within the liver is yet poorly understood. We have recently established novel laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry protocols allowing quantitative metal imaging in human and murine liver tissue with high sensitivity, spatial resolution, specificity and quantification ability. By use of these techniques, we here aimed to comparatively analyse hepatic metal content in wild-type and Atp7b deficient mice during ageing. We demonstrate that the age-dependent accumulation of hepatic copper is strictly associated with a simultaneous increase in iron and zinc, while the intrahepatic concentration and distribution of other metals or metalloids is not affected. The same findings were obtained in well-defined human liver samples that were obtained from patients suffering from Wilson's disease. We conclude that in Wilson's disease the imbalances of hepatic copper during ageing are closely correlated with alterations in intrahepatic iron and zinc content.
PMCID: PMC4395195  PMID: 25704483
metal bio-imaging; laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry; liver; trace metals; Wilson's disease
13.  Bile Duct Ligation in Mice: Induction of Inflammatory Liver Injury and Fibrosis by Obstructive Cholestasis 
In most vertebrates, the liver produces bile that is necessary to emulsify absorbed fats and enable the digestion of lipids in the small intestine as well as to excrete bilirubin and other metabolic products. In the liver, the experimental obstruction of the extrahepatic biliary system initiates a complex cascade of pathological events that leads to cholestasis and inflammation resulting in a strong fibrotic reaction originating from the periportal fields. Therefore, surgical ligation of the common bile duct has become the most commonly used model to induce obstructive cholestatic injury in rodents and to study the molecular and cellular events that underlie these pathophysiological mechanisms induced by inappropriate bile flow. In recent years, different surgical techniques have been described that either allow reconnection or reanastomosis after bile duct ligation (BDL), e.g., partial BDL, or other microsurgical methods for specific research questions. However, the most frequently used model is the complete obstruction of the common bile duct that induces a strong fibrotic response after 21 to 28 days. The mortality rate can be high due to infectious complications or technical inaccuracies. Here we provide a detailed surgical procedure for the BDL model in mice that induce a highly reproducible fibrotic response in accordance to the 3R rule for animal welfare postulated by Russel and Burch in 1959.
PMCID: PMC4354634  PMID: 25741630
Medicine; Issue 96; bile duct ligation; cholestasis; bile obstruction; hepatic fibrosis; inflammation; extracellular matrix; jaundice; mouse
14.  The use of marine-derived bioactive compounds as potential hepatoprotective agents 
Acta Pharmacologica Sinica  2014;36(2):158-170.
The marine environment may be explored as a rich source for novel drugs. A number of marine-derived compounds have been isolated and identified, and their therapeutic effects and pharmacological profiles are characterized. In the present review, we highlight the recent studies using marine compounds as potential hepatoprotective agents for the treatment of liver fibrotic diseases and discuss the proposed mechanisms of their activities. In addition, we discuss the significance of similar studies in Oman, where the rich marine life provides a potential for the isolation of novel natural, bioactive products that display therapeutic effects on liver diseases.
PMCID: PMC4326787  PMID: 25500871
liver fibrosis; hepatoprotective agent; marine compound; Scytonemin; Pacifenol; Epitaondiol; Stypotriol; Contignasterol; Xestobergsterol; Clathriol; Hymenialdisine; Hyrtiosal
15.  Immunomodulatory effects of transforming growth factor-β in the liver 
Members of the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) family are potent regulatory cytokines that affect multiple cell types of the immune system mediating pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory responses. In the liver, TGF-β is produced by a multitude of non-parenchymal liver cells including hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs), Kupffer cells (KCs), and dendritic cells (DCs) as well as natural killer (NK) T cells among other hepatic lymphocytes. The effect of TGF-β on other cells is highly versatile. In concert with other soluble factors, it controls the maturation, differentiation and activity of various T cell subsets that either prevent or actuate infections, graft-versus-host reactions, immune diseases, and cancer formation. During the last decades, it became evident that some TGFB1 polymorphisms are associated with the pathogenesis of hepatic disease and that plasma TGF-β is a suitable biomarker to detect liver lesions. Moreover, since TGF-β has capacity to influence the quantity and quality of T cell subsets as well as their activity, it is obvious that a well-balanced TGF-β activity is essential for liver homeostasis. In the present review, we highlight some pivotal functions of TGF-β in hepatic immunobiology. We discuss its regulatory function on adaptive immunity, the impact on differentiation of various T cell subsets, its crosstalk with Toll like receptor signaling, and its contribution to functional impairment of the liver.
PMCID: PMC4273109  PMID: 25568862
T cells; signaling; inflammation; Toll-like receptors (TLRs); hepatitis
16.  Liver immunology: new perspectives 
PMCID: PMC4273115  PMID: 25568857
17.  Cellular and molecular functions of hepatic stellate cells in inflammatory responses and liver immunology 
The liver is a central immunological organ. Liver resident macrophages, Kupffer cells (KC), but also sinusoidal endothelial cells, dendritic cells (DC) and other immune cells are involved in balancing immunity and tolerance against pathogens, commensals or food antigens. Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) have been primarily characterized as the main effector cells in liver fibrosis, due to their capacity to transdifferentiate into collagen-producing myofibroblasts (MFB). More recent studies elucidated the fundamental role of HSC in liver immunology. HSC are not only the major storage site for dietary vitamin A (Vit A) (retinol, retinoic acid), which is essential for proper function of the immune system. This pericyte further represents a versatile source of many soluble immunological active factors including cytokines [e.g., interleukin 17 (IL-17)] and chemokines [C-C motif chemokine (ligand) 2 (CCL2)], may act as an antigen presenting cell (APC), and has autophagy activity. Additionally, it responds to many immunological triggers via toll-like receptors (TLR) (e.g., TLR4, TLR9) and transduces signals through pathways and mediators traditionally found in immune cells, including the Hedgehog (Hh) pathway or inflammasome activation. Overall, HSC promote rather immune-suppressive responses in homeostasis, like induction of regulatory T cells (Treg), T cell apoptosis (via B7-H1, PDL-1) or inhibition of cytotoxic CD8 T cells. In conditions of liver injury, HSC are important sensors of altered tissue integrity and initiators of innate immune cell activation. Vice versa, several immune cell subtypes interact directly or via soluble mediators with HSC. Such interactions include the mutual activation of HSC (towards MFB) and macrophages or pro-apoptotic signals from natural killer (NK), natural killer T (NKT) and gamma-delta T cells (γδ T-cells) on activated HSC. Current directions of research investigate the immune-modulating functions of HSC in the environment of liver tumors, cellular heterogeneity or interactions promoting HSC deactivation during resolution of liver fibrosis. Understanding the role of HSC as central regulators of liver immunology may lead to novel therapeutic strategies for chronic liver diseases.
PMCID: PMC4273119  PMID: 25568859
Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs); retinol; macrophages; myofibroblasts; liver fibrosis
18.  Simultaneous monitoring of cerebral metal accumulation in an experimental model of Wilson’s disease by laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry 
BMC Neuroscience  2014;15:98.
Neuropsychiatric affection involving extrapyramidal symptoms is a frequent component of Wilson’s disease (WD). WD is caused by a genetic defect of the copper (Cu) efflux pump ATPase7B. Mouse strains with natural or engineered transgenic defects of the Atp7b gene have served as model of WD. These show a gradual accumulation and concentration of Cu in liver, kidneys, and brain. However, still little is known about the regional distribution of Cu inside the brain, its influence on other metals and subsequent pathophysiological mechanisms. We have applied laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and performed comparative metal bio-imaging in brain sections of wild type and Atp7b null mice in the age range of 11–24 months. Messenger RNA and protein expression of a panel of inflammatory markers were assessed using RT-PCR and Western blots of brain homogenates.
We could confirm Cu accumulation in brain parenchyma by a factor of two in WD (5.5 μg g−1 in the cortex) vs. controls (2.7 μg g−1) that was already fully established at 11 months. In the periventricular regions (PVR) known as structures of prominent Cu content, Cu was reduced in turn by a factor of 3. This corroborates the view of the PVR as efflux compartments with active transport of Cu into the cerebrospinal fluid. Furthermore, the gradient of Cu increasing downstream the PVR was relieved. Otherwise the architecture of Cu distribution was essentially maintained. Zinc (Zn) was increased by up to 40% especially in regions of high Cu but not in typical Zn accumulator regions, a side effect due to the fact that Zn is to some degree a substrate of Cu-ATPases. The concentrations of iron (Fe) and manganese (Mn) were constant throughout all regions assessed. Inflammatory markers TNF-α, TIMP-1 and the capillary proliferation marker α-SMA were increased by a factor of 2–3 in WD.
This study confirmed stable cerebral Cu accumulation in parenchyma and discovered reduced Cu in cerebrospinal fluid in Atp7b null mice underlining the diagnostic value of micro-local analytical techniques.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2202-15-98) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4156608  PMID: 25142911
Wilson’s disease; Bio-imaging; LA-ICP-MS; Copper; ATPase7B
19.  Endoglin in liver fibrogenesis: Bridging basic science and clinical practice 
Endoglin, also known as cluster of differentiation CD105, was originally identified 25 years ago as a novel marker of endothelial cells. Later it was shown that endoglin is also expressed in pro-fibrogenic cells including mesangial cells, cardiac and scleroderma fibroblasts, and hepatic stellate cells. It is an integral membrane-bound disulfide-linked 180 kDa homodimeric receptor that acts as a transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) auxiliary co-receptor. In humans, several hundreds of mutations of the endoglin gene are known that give rise to an autosomal dominant bleeding disorder that is characterized by localized angiodysplasia and arteriovenous malformation. This disease is termed hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia type I and induces various vascular lesions, mainly on the face, lips, hands and gastrointestinal mucosa. Two variants of endoglin (i.e., S- and L-endoglin) are formed by alternative splicing that distinguishes from each other in the length of their cytoplasmic tails. Moreover, a soluble form of endoglin, i.e., sol-Eng, is shedded by the matrix metalloprotease-14 that cleaves within the extracellular juxtamembrane region. Endoglin interacts with the TGF-β signaling receptors and influences Smad-dependent and -independent effects. Recent work has demonstrated that endoglin is a crucial mediator during liver fibrogenesis that critically controls the activity of the different Smad branches. In the present review, we summarize the present knowledge of endoglin expression and function, its involvement in fibrogenic Smad signaling, current models to investigate endoglin function, and the diagnostic value of endoglin in liver disease.
PMCID: PMC4050112  PMID: 24921008
Telangiectasia; Signalling; Transforming growth factor-β; Disease; Bleeding disorders
20.  TGF-β stimulation in human and murine cells reveals commonly affected biological processes and pathways at transcription level 
BMC Systems Biology  2014;8:55.
The TGF-β signaling pathway is a fundamental pathway in the living cell, which plays a key role in many central cellular processes. The complex and sometimes contradicting mechanisms by which TGF-β yields phenotypic effects are not yet completely understood. In this study we investigated and compared the transcriptional response profile of TGF-β1 stimulation in different cell types. For this purpose, extensive experiments are performed and time-course microarray data are generated in human and mouse parenchymal liver cells, human mesenchymal stromal cells and mouse hematopoietic progenitor cells at different time points. We applied a panel of bioinformatics methods on our data to uncover common patterns in the dynamic gene expression response in respective cells.
Our analysis revealed a quite variable and multifaceted transcriptional response profile of TGF-β1 stimulation, which goes far beyond the well-characterized classical TGF-β1 signaling pathway. Nonetheless, we could identify several commonly affected processes and signaling pathways across cell types and species. In addition our analysis suggested an important role of the transcription factor EGR1, which appeared to have a conserved influence across cell-types and species. Validation via an independent dataset on A549 lung adenocarcinoma cells largely confirmed our findings. Network analysis suggested explanations, how TGF-β1 stimulation could lead to the observed effects.
The analysis of dynamical transcriptional response to TGF-β treatment experiments in different human and murine cell systems revealed commonly affected biological processes and pathways, which could be linked to TGF-β1 via network analysis. This helps to gain insights about TGF-β pathway activities in these cell systems and its conserved interactions between the species and tissue types.
PMCID: PMC4049504  PMID: 24886091
TGF-β; Microarray; Time-course analysis; Gene set analysis; Clustering; Functional similarity
21.  TGF-beta1 Does Not Induce Senescence of Multipotent Mesenchymal Stromal Cells and Has Similar Effects in Early and Late Passages 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77656.
Transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-β1) stimulates a broad range of effects which are cell type dependent, and it has been suggested to induce cellular senescence. On the other hand, long-term culture of multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) has a major impact on their cellular physiology and therefore it is well conceivable that the molecular events triggered by TGF-β1 differ considerably in cells of early and late passages. In this study, we analyzed the effect of TGF-β1 on and during replicative senescence of MSCs. Stimulation with TGF-β1 enhanced proliferation, induced a network like growth pattern and impaired adipogenic and osteogenic differentiation. TGF-β1 did not induce premature senescence. However, due to increased proliferation rates the cells reached replicative senescence earlier than untreated controls. This was also evident, when we analyzed senescence-associated DNA-methylation changes. Gene expression profiles of MSCs differed considerably at relatively early (P 3 - 5) and later passages (P 10). Nonetheless, relative gene expression differences provoked by TGF-β1 at individual time points or in a time course dependent manner (stimulation for 0, 1, 4 and 12 h) were very similar in MSCs of early and late passage. These results support the notion that TGF-β1 has major impact on MSC function, but it does not induce senescence and has similar molecular effects during culture expansion.
PMCID: PMC3798389  PMID: 24147049
22.  Genetic Characteristics of the Human Hepatic Stellate Cell Line LX-2 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e75692.
The human hepatic cell line LX-2 has been described as tool to study mechanisms of hepatic fibrogenesis and the testing of antifibrotic compounds. It was originally generated by immortalisation with the Simian Vacuolating Virus 40 (SV40) transforming (T) antigen and subsequent propagation in low serum conditions. Although this immortalized line is used in an increasing number of studies, detailed genetic characterisation has been lacking. We here have performed genetic characterisation of the LX-2 cell line and established a single-locus short tandem repeat (STR) profile for the cell line and characterized the LX-2 karyotype by several cytogenetic and molecular cytogenetic techniques. Spectral karyotyping (SKY) revealed a complex karyotype with a set of aberrations consistently present in the metaphases analyses which might serve as cytogenetic markers. In addition, various subclonal and single cell aberrations were detected. Our study provides criteria for genetic authentication of LX-2 and offers insights into the genotype changes which might underlie part of its phenotypic features.
PMCID: PMC3792989  PMID: 24116068
23.  Experimental liver fibrosis research: update on animal models, legal issues and translational aspects 
Liver fibrosis is defined as excessive extracellular matrix deposition and is based on complex interactions between matrix-producing hepatic stellate cells and an abundance of liver-resident and infiltrating cells. Investigation of these processes requires in vitro and in vivo experimental work in animals. However, the use of animals in translational research will be increasingly challenged, at least in countries of the European Union, because of the adoption of new animal welfare rules in 2013. These rules will create an urgent need for optimized standard operating procedures regarding animal experimentation and improved international communication in the liver fibrosis community. This review gives an update on current animal models, techniques and underlying pathomechanisms with the aim of fostering a critical discussion of the limitations and potential of up-to-date animal experimentation. We discuss potential complications in experimental liver fibrosis and provide examples of how the findings of studies in which these models are used can be translated to human disease and therapy. In this review, we want to motivate the international community to design more standardized animal models which might help to address the legally requested replacement, refinement and reduction of animals in fibrosis research.
PMCID: PMC3850878  PMID: 24274743
Animal models; Animal welfare; Cholestasis; Cirrhosis; EU-Directive 2010/63; Fibrosis; Hepatic stellate cells; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Liver immunology; Translational medicine
24.  Cyclin E1 controls proliferation of hepatic stellate cells and is essential for liver fibrogenesis in mice 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2012;56(3):1140-1149.
Liver fibrogenesis is associated with the transition of quiescent hepatocytes and hepatic stellate cells (HSC) into the cell cycle. Exit from quiescence is controlled by E-type cyclins (CcnE1, CcnE2). Thus, the aim of the current study was to investigate the contribution of E-type cyclins for liver fibrosis in man and mice.
Expression of CcnE1, but not of its homologue CcnE2 was induced in fibrotic and cirrhotic livers from human patients with different etiologies and in murine wildtype (WT) livers after periodical administration of the pro-fibrotic toxin carbon tetrachloride (CCl4). To further evaluate the potential function of E-type cyclins for liver fibrogenesis, we repetitively treated constitutive CcnE1−/− and CcnE2−/− knockout mice with CCl4 to induce liver fibrosis. Interestingly, CcnE1−/− mice were protected against CCl4–mediated liver fibrogenesis as evidenced by reduced collagen type I α1 expression and lack of septum formation. In contrast, CcnE2−/− mice showed accelerated fibrogenesis following CCl4 treatment. We isolated primary HSC from WT, CcnE1−/− and CcnE2−/− mice and analyzed their activation, proliferation and survival in vitro. CcnE1 expression in WT HSC was maximal when they started to proliferate, but decreased after the cells transdifferentiated into myofibroblasts. CcnE1−/− HSC showed dramatically impaired survival, cell cycle arrest and strongly reduced expression of alpha-smooth muscle actin, indicating deficient HSC activation. In contrast, CcnE2-deficient HSC expressed elevated level of CcnE1 and showed enhanced cell cycle activity and proliferation compared to WT cells.
CcnE1 and CcnE2 have antagonistic roles in liver fibrosis. CcnE1 is indispensable for activation, proliferation and survival of HSC and thus promotes synthesis of extracellular matrix and liver fibrogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3396430  PMID: 22454377
cell cycle; liver fibrosis; Carbon tetrachloride; Cyclin E2; cell cycle arrest; apoptosis
25.  Regulation and Prognostic Relevance of Symmetric Dimethylarginine Serum Concentrations in Critical Illness and Sepsis 
Mediators of Inflammation  2013;2013:413826.
In systemic inflammation and sepsis, endothelial activation and microvascular dysfunction are characteristic features that promote multiorgan failure. As symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA) impacts vascular tension and integrity via modulating nitric oxide (NO) pathways, we investigated circulating SDMA in critical illness and sepsis. 247 critically ill patients (160 with sepsis, 87 without sepsis) were studied prospectively upon admission to the medical intensive care unit (ICU) and on day 7, in comparison to 84 healthy controls. SDMA serum levels were significantly elevated in critically ill patients at admission to ICU compared to controls and remained stably elevated during the first week of ICU treatment. The highest SDMA levels were found in patients with sepsis. SDMA levels closely correlated with disease severity scores, biomarkers of inflammation, and organ failure (renal, hepatic, and circulatory). We identified SDMA serum concentrations at admission as an independent prognostic biomarker in critically ill patients not only for short-term mortality at the ICU but also for unfavourable long-term survival. Thus, the significant increase of circulating SDMA in critically ill patients indicates a potential pathogenic involvement in endothelial dysfunction during sepsis and may be useful for mortality risk stratification at the ICU.
PMCID: PMC3712234  PMID: 23935249

Results 1-25 (54)