Bile salts inhibit their own production by inducing the nuclear receptor small heterodimer partner (SHP) (encoded by NR0B2), which contributes to repression of the gene encoding cholesterol 7?-hydroxylase (CYP7A), an enzyme required for bile salt synthesis. On the other hand, bile salts stimulate hepatic synthesis of nitric oxide. We investigated the role of nitric oxide signaling in the control of CYP7A1 expression and the involvement in this process of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), which participates in intracellular propagation of nitric oxide signals.
Inflammation and fibrogenesis are directly related to chronic liver disease progression, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development. Currently there are few therapeutic options available to inhibit liver fibrosis. We have evaluated the hepatoprotective and anti-fibrotic potential of orally-administered 5-methylthioadenosine (MTA) in Mdr2(-/-) mice, a clinically relevant model of sclerosing cholangitis and spontaneous biliary fibrosis, followed at later stages by HCC development.
We investigated whether gene transfer of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) to the hepatic tissue was able to improve liver histology and function in established liver cirrhosis. Rats with liver cirrhosis induced by carbon tetrachloride (CCl(4)) given orally for 8 weeks were injected through the hepatic artery with saline or with Simian virus 40 vectors encoding IGF-I (SVIGF-I), or luciferase (SVLuc). Animals were sacrificed 8 weeks after vector injection. In cirrhotic rats we observed that, whereas IGF-I was synthesized by hepatocytes, IGF-I receptor was predominantly expressed by nonparenchymal cells, mainly in fibrous septa surrounding hepatic nodules. Rats treated with SVIGF-I showed increased hepatic levels of IGF-I, improved liver function tests, and reduced fibrosis in association with diminished alpha-smooth muscle actin expression, up-regulation of matrix metalloproteases (MMPs) and decreased expression of the tissue inhibitors of MMPs TIM-1 and TIM-2. SVIGF-I therapy induced down-regulation of the profibrogenic molecules transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta), amphiregulin, platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), and vascular endothelium growth factor (VEGF) and induction of the antifibrogenic and cytoprotective hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). Furthermore, SVIGF-I-treated animals showed decreased expression of Wilms tumor-1 (WT-1; a nuclear factor involved in hepatocyte dedifferentiation) and up-regulation of hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 alpha (HNF4alpha) (which stimulates hepatocellular differentiation). The therapeutic potential of SVIGF-I was also tested in rats with thioacetamide-induced liver cirrhosis. Also in this model, SVIGF-I improved liver function and reduced liver fibrosis in association with up-regulation of HGF and MMPs and down-regulation of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 1 (TIMP-1). Conclusion: IGF-I gene transfer to cirrhotic livers induces MMPs and hepatoprotective factors leading to reversion of fibrosis and improvement of liver function. IGF-I gene therapy may be a useful alternative therapy for patients with advanced cirrhosis without timely access to liver transplantation.
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