Chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA) governs degradation of cytosolic proteins damaged by nutritional changes and declines with age. In this issue, Schneider et al. (2014) reveal CMA as a novel player in the regulation of liver lipid and carbohydrate metabolism and suggest that defects in CMA may play a major role in metabolic dysregulation.
Chronic HCV infection is associated with the development of hepatic fibrosis. The direct role of HCV in the fibrogenic process is unknown. Specifically, whether HCV is able to infect hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) is debated.
Liver fibrosis is a common wound healing response to chronic liver injury of all causes, and its end-stage cirrhosis is responsible for high morbidity and mortality worldwide. Fibrosis results from prolonged parenchymal cell apoptosis and necrosis associated with an inflammatory reaction that leads to recruitment of immune cells, activation and accumulation of fibrogenic cells, and extracellular matrix accumulation. The fibrogenic process is driven by hepatic myofibroblasts, that mainly derive from hepatic stellate cells undergoing a transdifferentiation from a quiescent, lipid-rich into a fibrogenic myofibroblastic phenotype, in response to paracrine/autocrine signals produced by neighbouring inflammatory and parenchymal cells. Autophagy is an important regulator of liver homeostasis under physiological and pathological conditions. This review focuses on recent findings showing that autophagy is a novel, but complex, regulatory pathway in liver fibrosis, with profibrogenic effects relying on its direct contribution to the process of hepatic stellate cell activation, but with antifibrogenic properties via indirect hepatoprotective and anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, cell-specific delivery of drugs that exploit autophagic pathways is a prerequisite to further consider autophagy as a potential target for antifibrotic therapy.
Acid sphingomyelinase (ASMase) is activated in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). However, the contribution of ASMase to NASH is poorly understood and limited to hepatic steatosis and glucose metabolism. Here we examined the role of ASMase in high fat diet (HFD)-induced NASH.
Alcoholic liver disease is a predominant cause of liver-related mortality in Western countries. The early steps of alcohol-induced steatosis and liver injury involve several mechanisms, including inflammation and oxidative stress. The inflammatory process is initiated by polarization of Kupffer cells toward a proinflammatory M1 phenotype, and we recently found that promoting anti-inflammatory M2 Kupffer cell polarization protects against alcohol-induced hepatocyte steatosis and apoptosis. Alcohol-induced oxidative stress is a potential trigger of senescence, and senescent cells exhibit characteristic functional resistance to apoptosis. We sought to evaluate induction of hepatocyte senescence as an early protective mechanism against alcoholic liver disease. Combining in vivo and in vitro studies, we show that M2 macrophages trigger hepatocyte senescence and enhance alcohol-induced hepatocyte senescence, as indicated by increased ?-galactosidase activity, elevated CDKN1A mRNA expression, and induction of nuclear p21. We identify IL-6 as the mediator of M2-induced hepatocyte senescence. Senescent hepatocytes display characteristic resistance to apoptosis but also to steatosis, thus arguing for an early protective effect against alcoholic liver disease. These findings further suggest that pharmacologic interventions targeting M2 polarization during the early stages of alcoholic liver disease may represent an attractive strategy for the limitation of inflammation, hepatocyte apoptosis, and steatosis.
The contribution of environmental pollutants to liver fibrosis is an important and poorly explored issue. In vitro studies suggest that the environmental pollutant 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) and other aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) ligands induce several genes that are known to be upregulated during liver fibrosis. Our aim was to determine whether exposure to such pollutants can lead to liver fibrosis and to characterize the mechanisms of action. Mice were treated for 2, 14, or 42 days, once a week with 25 µg/kg of TCDD. Gene and protein expression, in vitro and in vivo, as well as liver histology were investigated for each treatment. Treatment of mice with TCDD for 2 weeks modified the hepatic expression of markers of fibrosis such as collagen 1A1 and ?-smooth muscle actin. This is not observed in AhR knockout mice. Following 6 weeks of treatment, histological features of murine hepatic fibrosis became apparent. In parallel, the levels of inflammatory cytokines (interleukin-1 beta, tumor necrosis factor ?) and of markers of activated fibroblasts(fibroblast-specific protein 1) were found to be upregulated. Interestingly, we also found increased expression of genes of the TGF-? pathway and a concomitant decrease of miR-200a levels. Because the transcription factors of the Snail family were shown to be involved in liver fibrosis, we studied their regulation by TCDD. Two members of the Snail family were increased, whereas their negative targets, the epithelial marker E-cadherin and Claudin 1, were decreased. Further, the expression of mesenchymal markers was increased. Finally, we confirmed that Snai2 is a direct transcriptional target of TCDD in the human hepatocarcinoma cell line, HepG2. The AhR ligand, TCDD, induces hepatic fibrosis by directly regulating profibrotic pathways.
Liver fibrosis is the common scarring reaction associated with chronic liver injury that results from prolonged parenchymal cell injury and/or inflammation. The fibrogenic response is characterized by progressive accumulation of extracellular matrix components enriched in fibrillar collagens and a failure of matrix turnover. This process is driven by a heterogeneous population of hepatic myofibroblasts, which mainly derive from hepatic stellate cells and portal fibroblasts. Regression of fibrosis can be achieved by the successful control of chronic liver injury, owing to termination of the fibrogenic reaction following clearance of hepatic myofibroblasts and restoration of fibrolytic pathways. Understanding of the complex network underlying liver fibrogenesis has allowed the identification of a large number of antifibrotic targets, but no antifibrotic drug has as yet been approved. This review will highlight recent advances regarding the mechanisms that regulate liver fibrogenesis and fibrosis regression, with special focus on novel signaling pathways and the role of inflammatory cells. Translation of these findings to therapies will require continued efforts to develop multitarget therapeutic approaches that will improve the grim prognosis of liver cirrhosis.
Interleukin (IL)-17 is a proinflammatory and fibrogenic cytokine mainly produced by T-helper (Th)17 lymphocytes, together with the hepatoprotective and antifibrogenic cytokine, IL-22. Cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) is predominantly expressed in immune cells and displays anti-inflammatory and antifibrogenic effects. In the present study, we further investigated the mechanism underlying antifibrogenic properties of CB2 receptor and explored its effect on the profibrogenic properties of IL-17. After bile duct ligation (BDL), the hepatic expression of Th17 markers and IL-17 production were enhanced in CB2(-/-) mice, as compared to wild-type (WT) counterparts, and correlated with increased fibrosis in these animals. In contrast, IL-22-induced expression was similar in both animal groups. Inhibition of Th17 differentiation by digoxin lowered Th17 marker gene expression and IL-17 production and strongly reduced liver fibrosis in CB2(-/-) BDL mice. In vitro, differentiation of CD4(+) naïve T cells into Th17 lymphocytes was decreased by the CB2 agonist, JWH-133, and was associated with reduced Th17 marker messenger RNA expression and IL-17 production, without modification of IL-22 release. The inhibitory effect of JWH-133 on IL-17 production relied on signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT)5 phosphorylation. Indeed, STAT5 phosphorylation and translocation into the nucleus was enhanced in JWH133-treated Th17 lymphocytes, and the addition of a STAT5 inhibitor reversed the inhibitory effect of the CB2 agonist on IL-17 production, without affecting IL-22 levels. Finally, in vitro studies also demonstrated that CB2 receptor activation in macrophages and hepatic myofibroblasts blunts IL-17-induced proinflammatory gene expression. Conclusion: These data demonstrate that CB2 receptor activation decreases liver fibrosis by selectively reducing IL-17 production by Th17 lymphocytes via a STAT5-dependent pathway, and by blunting the proinflammatory effects of IL-17 on its target cells, while preserving IL-22 production. (Hepatology 2014;58:296-306).
Alcoholic and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (ALD and NAFLD) are the predominant causes of liver-related mortality in Western countries. We have shown that limiting classical (M1) Kupffer cell (KC) polarization reduces alcohol-induced liver injury. Herein, we investigated whether favoring alternatively activated M2 KCs may protect against ALD and NAFLD. Ongoing alcohol drinkers and morbidly obese patients, with minimal hepatic injury and steatosis, displayed higher hepatic expression of M2 genes, as compared to patients with more severe liver lesions; individuals with limited liver lesions showed negligible hepatocyte apoptosis but significant macrophage apoptosis. Experiments in mouse models of ALD or NAFLD further showed that BALB/c or resveratrol-treated mice fed alcohol or a high-fat diet displayed preponderant M2 KC polarization, M1 KC apoptosis, and resistance to hepatocyte steatosis and apoptosis, as compared to control C57BL6/J mice. In vitro experiments in isolated KC, peritoneal, and Raw264.7 macrophages demonstrated that M1 macrophage apoptosis was promoted by conditioned medium from macrophages polarized into an M2 phenotype by either interleukin (IL)4, resveratrol, or adiponectin. Mechanistically, IL10 released from M2 cells promoted M1 death, and anti-IL10 antibodies blunted the proapoptic effects of M2-conditioned media. IL10 secreted by M2 KCs promoted selective M1 death by a mechanism involving activation of arginase in high inducible nitric oxide synthase-expressing M1 KCs. In alcohol-exposed mice, neutralization of IL10 impaired M1 apoptosis. Conclusion: These data uncover a novel mechanism regulating the M1/M2 balance that relies on apoptotic effects of M2 KCs towards their M1 counterparts. They suggest that promoting M2-induced M1 KC apoptosis might prove a relevant strategy to limit alcohol- and high fat-induced inflammation and hepatocyte injury. (Hepatology 2014;58:130-142).
Over the last decade, the endocannabinoid system has emerged as a pivotal mediator of acute and chronic liver injury, with the description of the role of CB1 and CB2 receptors and their endogenous lipidic ligands in various aspects of liver pathophysiology. A large number of studies have demonstrated that CB1 receptor antagonists represent an important therapeutic target, owing to beneficial effects on lipid metabolism and in light of its antifibrogenic properties. Unfortunately, the brain-penetrant CB1 antagonist rimonabant, initially approved for the management of overweight and related cardiometabolic risks, was withdrawn because of an alarming rate of mood adverse effects. However, the efficacy of peripherally-restricted CB1 antagonists with limited brain penetrance has now been validated in preclinical models of NAFLD, and beneficial effects on fibrosis and its complications are anticipated. CB2 receptor is currently considered as a promising anti-inflammatory and antifibrogenic target, although clinical development of CB2 agonists is still awaited. In this review, we highlight the latest advances on the impact of the endocannabinoid system on the key steps of chronic liver disease progression and discuss the therapeutic potential of molecules targeting cannabinoid receptors.
Non alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is the more severe form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. In NASH, fatty liver, hepatic inflammation, hepatocyte injury and fibrogenesis are associated, and this condition may eventually lead to cirrhosis. Current treatment of NASH relies on the reduction of body weight and increase in physical activity, but there is no pharmacologic treatment approved as yet. Emerging data indicate that NASH progression results from parallel events originating from the liver as well as from the adipose tissue, the gut and the gastrointestinal tract. Thus, dysfunction of the adipose tissue through enhanced flow of free fatty acids and release of adipocytokines, and alterations in the gut microbiome generate proinflammatory signals that underlie NASH progression. Additional extrahepatic hits include dietary factors and gastrointestinal hormones. Within the liver, hepatocyte apoptosis, ER stress and oxidative stress are key contributors to hepatocellular injury. In addition, lipotoxic mediators and danger signals activate Kupffer cells which initiate and perpetuate the inflammatory response by releasing inflammatory mediators that contribute to inflammatory cell recruitment and development of fibrosis. Inflammatory and fibrogenic mediators include chemokines, the cannabinoid system, the inflammasome and activation of pattern-recognition receptors. Here we review the major mechanisms leading to appearance and progression of NASH, focusing on both extrahepatic signals and local inflammatory mechanisms, in an effort to identify the most promising molecular targets for the treatment of this condition.
The mammalian liver regenerates upon tissue loss, which induces quiescent hepatocytes to enter the cell cycle and undergo limited replication under the control of multiple hormones, growth factors, and cytokines. Endocannabinoids acting via cannabinoid type 1 receptors (CB(1)R) promote neural progenitor cell proliferation, and in the liver they promote lipogenesis. These findings suggest the involvement of CB(1)R in the control of liver regeneration. Here we report that mice lacking CB(1)R globally or in hepatocytes only and wild-type mice treated with a CB(1)R antagonist have a delayed proliferative response to two-thirds partial hepatectomy (PHX). In wild-type mice, PHX leads to increased hepatic expression of CB(1)R and hyperactivation of the biosynthesis of the endocannabinoid anandamide in the liver via an in vivo pathway involving conjugation of arachidonic acid and ethanolamine by fatty-acid amide hydrolase. In wild-type but not CB(1)R(-/-) mice, PHX induces robust up-regulation of key cell-cycle proteins involved in mitotic progression, including cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (Cdk1), cyclin B2, and their transcriptional regulator forkhead box protein M1 (FoxM1), as revealed by ultrahigh-throughput RNA sequencing and pathway analysis and confirmed by real-time PCR and Western blot analyses. Treatment of wild-type mice with anandamide induces similar changes mediated via activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway. We conclude that activation of hepatic CB(1)R by newly synthesized anandamide promotes liver regeneration by controlling the expression of cell-cycle regulators that drive M phase progression.
Activation of Kupffer cells plays a central role in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease. Because cannabinoid CB2 receptors (CB2) display potent anti-inflammatory properties, we investigated their role in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease, focusing on the impact of CB2 on Kupffer cell polarization and the consequences on liver steatosis. Wild-type (WT) mice fed an alcohol diet showed an induction of hepatic classical (M1) and alternative (M2) markers. Cotreatment of alcohol-fed mice with the CB2 agonist, JWH-133, decreased hepatic M1 gene expression without affecting the M2 profile. In keeping with this, genetic ablation of CB2 enhanced hepatic induction of M1 gene signature and blunted the induction of M2 markers. CB2 also modulated alcohol-induced fatty liver, as shown by the reduction of hepatocyte steatosis in JWH-133-treated mice and its enhancement in CB2-/- animals. Studies in isolated Kupffer cells and cultured macrophages further demonstrated that CB2 inhibits M1 polarization and favors the transition to an M2 phenotype. In addition, conditioned-medium experiments showed that preventing M1 polarization in CB2-activated macrophages protects from lipid accumulation in hepatocytes. Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) mediated the anti-inflammatory effects of CB2 receptors. Indeed, alcohol-fed mice treated with JWH-133 showed increased hepatic expression of macrophage HO-1, as compared to vehicle-treated counterparts. In keeping with this, JWH-133 induced HO-1 expression in cultured macrophages, and the HO-1 inhibitor, zinc protoporphyrin, blunted the inhibitory effect of JWH-133 on lipopolysaccharide-induced nuclear factor-kappa B activation and M1 polarization. Altogether, these findings demonstrate that CB2 receptors display beneficial effects on alcohol-induced inflammation by regulating M1/M2 balance in Kupffer cells, thereby reducing hepatocyte steatosis via paracrine interactions between Kupffer cells and hepatocytes. These data identify CB2 agonists as potential therapeutic agents for the management of alcoholic liver disease.
The long term outcome of nanoparticles in the organism is one of the most important concerns raised by the development of nanotechnology and nanomedicine. Little is known on the way taken by cells to process and degrade nanoparticles over time. In this context, iron oxide superparamagnetic nanoparticles benefit from a privileged status, because they show a very good tolerance profile, allowing their clinical use for MRI diagnosis. It is generally assumed that the specialized metabolism which regulates iron in the organism can also handle iron oxide nanoparticles. However the biotransformation of iron oxide nanoparticles is still not elucidated. Here we propose a multiscale approach to study the fate of nanomagnets in the organism. Ferromagnetic resonance and SQUID magnetization measurements are used to quantify iron oxide nanoparticles and follow the evolution of their magnetic properties. A nanoscale structural analysis by electron microscopy complements the magnetic follow-up of nanoparticles injected to mice. We evidence the biotransformation of superparamagnetic maghemite nanoparticles into poorly-magnetic iron species probably stored into ferritin proteins over a period of three months. A putative mechanism is proposed for the biotransformation of iron-oxide nanoparticles.
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.
The cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) plays a pleiotropic role in innate immunity and is a crucial mediator of liver disease. In this study, we investigated the impact of CB2 receptors on the regenerative process associated with liver injury. Following acute hepatitis induced by carbon tetrachloride (CCl(4)), CB2 was induced in the nonparenchymal cell fraction and remained undetectable in hepatocytes. Administration of CCl(4) to CB2(-/-) mice accelerated liver injury, as shown by increased alanine/aspartate aminotransferase levels and hepatocyte apoptosis, and delayed liver regeneration, as reflected by a retarded induction of hepatocyte proliferating cell nuclear antigen expression; proliferating cell nuclear antigen induction was also delayed in CB2(-/-) mice undergoing partial hepatectomy. Conversely, following treatment with the CB2 agonist JWH-133, CCl(4)-treated WT mice displayed reduced liver injury and accelerated liver regeneration. The CCl(4)-treated CB2(-/-) mice showed a decrease in inducible nitric oxide synthase and tumor necrosis factor-alpha expression, and administration of the nitric oxide donor moldomine (SIN-1) to these animals reduced hepatocyte apoptosis, without affecting liver regeneration. Impaired liver regeneration was consecutive to an interleukin-6 (IL-6)-mediated decrease in matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP-2) activity. Indeed, CCl(4)-treated CB2(-/-) mice displayed lower levels of hepatic IL-6 messenger RNA and increased MMP-2 activity. Administration of IL-6 to these mice decreased MMP-2 activity and improved liver regeneration, without affecting hepatocyte apoptosis. Accordingly, administration of the MMP inhibitor CTTHWGFTLC to CCl(4)-treated CB2(-/-) mice improved liver regeneration. Finally, in vitro studies demonstrated that incubation of hepatic myofibroblasts with JWH-133 increased tumor necrosis factor-alpha and IL-6 and decreased MMP-2 expressions.
Our aim was to evaluate the roles of the cannabinoid pathway in the induction and propagation of systemic sclerosis (SSc) in a mouse model of diffuse SSc induced by hypochlorite injections. BALB/c mice injected subcutaneously every day for 6 weeks with PBS or hypochlorite were treated intraperitoneally with either WIN-55,212, an agonist of the cannabinoid receptors 1 (CB1) and receptors 2 (CB2), with JWH-133, a selective agonist of CB2, or with PBS. Skin and lung fibrosis were then assessed by histological and biochemical methods, and the proliferation of fibroblasts purified from diseased skin was assessed by thymidine incorporation. Autoantibodies were detected by ELISA, and spleen cell populations were analyzed by flow cytometry. Experiments were also performed in mice deficient for CB2 receptors (Cnr2(-/-)). Injections of hypochlorite induced cutaneous and lung fibrosis as well as increased the proliferation rate of fibroblasts isolated from fibrotic skin, splenic B cell counts, and levels of anti-DNA topoisomerase-1 autoantibodies. Treatment with WIN-55,212 or with the selective CB2 agonist JWH-133 prevented the development of skin and lung fibrosis as well as reduced fibroblast proliferation and the development of autoantibodies. Experiments performed in CB2-deficient mice confirmed the influence of CB2 in the development of systemic fibrosis and autoimmunity. Therefore, we demonstrate that the CB2 receptor is a potential target for the treatment of SSc because it controls both skin fibroblast proliferation and the autoimmune reaction.
Obesity-associated inflammation is of critical importance in the development of insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Since the cannabinoid receptor CB2 regulates innate immunity, the aim of the present study was to investigate its role in obesity-induced inflammation, insulin resistance and fatty liver.
Osteopontin (OPN) plays an important role in the development of insulin resistance and liver complications in dietary murine models. We aimed to determine the expression pattern of OPN and its receptor CD44 in obese patients and mice according to insulin resistance and liver steatosis.
Post-myocardial infarction (MI) heart failure is a major public health problem in Western countries and results from ischemia/reperfusion (IR)-induced cell death, remodeling, and contractile dysfunction. Ex vivo studies have demonstrated the cardioprotective anti-inflammatory effect of the cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptor agonists within hours after IR. Herein, we evaluated the in vivo effect of CB2 receptors on IR-induced cell death, fibrosis, and cardiac dysfunction and investigated the target role of cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts. The infarct size was increased 24 h after IR in CB2(-/-) vs. wild-type (WT) hearts and decreased when WT hearts were injected with the CB2 agonist JWH133 (3 mg/kg) at reperfusion. Compared with WT hearts, CB2(-/-) hearts showed widespread injury 3 d after IR, with enhanced apoptosis and remodeling affecting the remote myocardium. Finally, CB2(-/-) hearts exhibited exacerbated fibrosis, associated with left ventricular dysfunction 4 wk after IR, whereas their WT counterparts recovered normal function. Cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts isolated from CB2(-/-) hearts displayed a higher H(2)O(2)-induced death than WT cells, whereas 1 microM JWH133 triggered survival effects. Furthermore, H(2)O(2)-induced myofibroblast activation was increased in CB2(-/-) fibroblasts but decreased in 1 microM JWH133-treated WT fibroblasts, compared with that in WT cells. Therefore, CB2 receptor activation may protect against post-IR heart failure through direct inhibition of cardiac myocyte and fibroblast death and prevention of myofibroblast activation.
To investigate whether cellular imaging by using ultrasmall superparamagnetic iron oxide (USPIO)-enhanced magnetic resonance (MR) imaging can allow detection and quantification of adipose tissue macrophage-related inflammation within adipose tissue in a mouse model.
The prevalence of the metabolic syndrome (MetS), a cluster of cardiovascular risk factors associated with obesity and insulin resistance, is dramatically increasing in Western and developing countries. This disorder is not only associated with a higher risk of appearance of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular events, but impacts on the liver in different ways. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is considerd the hepatic manifestation of the MetS, and is characterized by triglyceride accumulation and a variable degree of hepatic injury, inflammation, and repair. In the presence of significant hepatocellular injury and inflammation, the picture is defined steatohepatitis (NASH), that has the potential to progress to advanced fibrosis and cirrhosis. Diagnosis of NASH is based on a liver biopsy, and active search for noninvasive tests is ongoing. Progression of steatohepatitis to advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis has been shown in at least one third of patients followed with paired biopsies. Presence of NASH is associated with lower life expectancy, both due to liver-related death and an increase in cardiovascular events. The appearance of NAFLD is mainly dependent on increased flow of fatty acids derived from an excess of lipolysis from insulin-resistant adipose tissue. Development of NASH is based on lipotoxicity and is influenced by signals derived from outside the liver and from intrahepatic activation of inflammatory and fibrogenic pathways. The presence of the MetS is also associated with worse outcomes in patients with cirrhosis due to any causes, and has complex interactions with hepatitis C virus infection. Moreover, the MetS poses a higher risk of development of hepatocellular carcinoma, not necessarily through the development of NASH-related cirrhosis. In conclusion, the presence of metabolic alterations has a severe and multifaceted impact on the liver, and is responsible for a higher risk of liver-dependent and -independent mortality.
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