BACKGROUND & AIMS-Severe polycystic liver disease can complicate adult dominant polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disease caused by defects in polycystin-1 (Pkd1) or polycystin-2 (Pkd2). Liver cyst epithelial cells (LCECs) express vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its receptor, VEGFR-2. We investigated the effects of VEGF on liver cyst growth and autocrine VEGF signaling in mice with Pkd1 and Pkd2 conditional knockouts.
Liver involvement in autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is characterized by altered remodeling of the embryonic ductal plate (DP) with presence of biliary cysts and aberrant portal vasculature. The genetic defect causing ADPKD has been identified, but mechanisms of liver cyst growth remain uncertain. To investigate the possible role of angiogenic mechanisms, we have studied the immunohistochemical expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), angiopoietin-1 (Ang-1), angiopoietin-2 (Ang-2) and their receptors (VEGFR-1, VEGFR-2, Tie-2) in ADPKD, Caroli's disease, normal and fetal livers. In ADPKD and control livers Ang-1 and Ang-2 gene expression was studied by real-time-PCR. Effects of VEGF on cholangiocyte proliferation were studied by PCNA Western Blot in isolated rat cholangiocytes and by MTS assay in cultured cholangiocytes isolated from ADPKD patients and from an ADPKD mouse model (Pkd2 WS25/؊ ). Cholangiocytes were strongly positive for VEGF, VEGFR-1, VEGFR-2 and Ang-2 in ADPKD and Caroli, and also for Ang-1 and Tie-2 in ADPKD, similar to fetal ductal plate cells. VEGF stimulated proliferation in both normal and ADPKD cholangiocytes, but the effect was particularly evident in the latter. Ang-1 alone had no effect, but was synergic to VEGF. VEGF expression on cholangiocytes positively correlated with microvascular density. In conclusion, consistent with the immature phenotype of the cystic epithelium, expression of VEGF, VEGFRs, Ang-1 and Tie-2 is strongly upregulated in cholangiocytes from polycystic liver diseases. VEGF and Ang-1 have autocrine proliferative effect on cholangiocyte growth and paracrine effect on portal vasculature, thus promoting the growth of the cysts and their vascular supply. Supplementary material for this article can be found on the HEPATOLOGY website (http://interscience.wiley.com/jpages/0270-9139/suppmat/index.html).
Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) is characterized by an abundant stromal reaction. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) are pivotal players in tumor growth and invasiveness and represent a potential therapeutic target. To understand the mechanisms leading to CAF recruitment in CCA, we studied: 1) the expression of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in surgical CCA specimens and CCA cells; 2) the lineage tracking of an EGFP-expressing human male CCA cell line (EGI-1) after xenotransplantation into severe-combined-immunodeficient mice; 3) the expression of platelet-derived growth factors (PDGFs) and their receptors in vivo and in vitro; 4) the secretion of PDGFs by CCA cells; 5) the role of PDGF-D in fibroblast recruitment in vitro; 6) the downstream effectors of PDGF-D signaling. CCA cells expressed several EMT biomarkers but not α-SMA. Xenotransplanted CCA masses were surrounded and infiltrated by α-SMA-expressing CAF, which were negative for EGFP and the human Y-probe, but positive for the murine Y-probe. CCA cells were strongly immunoreactive for PDGF-A and -D, whilst CAF expressed PDGFRβ. PDGF-D, a PDGFRβ agonist, was exclusively secreted by cultured CCA cells. Fibroblast migration was potently induced by PDGF-D and CCA conditioned medium, and was significantly inhibited by PDGFRβ blockade with Imatinib and by silencing PDGF-D expression in CCA cells. In fibroblasts, PDGF-D activated the Rac1 and Cdc42 Rho GTPases and JNK. Selective inhibition of Rho GTPases (particularly Rac1) and of JNK strongly reduced PDGF-D-induced fibroblast migration.
CCA cells express several mesenchymal markers, but do not transdifferentiate into CAF. Instead, CCA cells recruit CAF by secreting PDGF-D, which stimulates fibroblast migration via PDGFRβ and Rho GTPase and JNK activation. Targeting tumor/stroma interactions with inhibitors of PDGF-D pathway may offer a novel therapeutic approach.
Congenital Hepatic Fibrosis (CHF) is a disease of the biliary epithelium characterized by bile duct changes resembling ductal plate malformations and by progressive peribiliary fibrosis, in the absence of overt necroinflammation. Progressive liver fibrosis leads to portal hypertension and liver failure, however the mechanisms leading to fibrosis in CHF remain elusive. CHF is caused by mutations in PKHD1, a gene encoding for fibrocystin, a ciliary protein expressed in cholangiocytes. Using a fibrocystin-defective (Pkhd1del4/del4) mouse, which is orthologous of CHF, we show that Pkhd1del4/del4 cholangiocytes are characterized by a β-catenin-dependent secretion of a range of chemokines, including CXCL1, CXCL10 and CXCL12, which stimulate bone marrow-derived macrophage recruitment. We also show that Pkhd1del4/del4 cholangiocytes, in turn, respond to proinflammatory cytokines released by macrophages by up-regulating αvβ6 integrin, an activator of latent local TGFβ1. While the macrophage infiltrate is initially dominated by the M1 phenotype, the profibrogenic M2 phenotype increases with disease progression, along with the number of portal myofibroblasts. Consistent with these findings, clodronate-induced macrophage depletion results in a significant reduction of portal fibrosis and portal hypertension as well as of liver cysts.
our results show that fibrosis can be initiated by an epithelial cell dysfunction, leading to low-grade inflammation, macrophage recruitment and collagen deposition. These findings establish a new paradigm for biliary fibrosis and represent a model to understand the relationship between cell dysfunction, parainflammation, liver fibrosis and macrophage polarization over time.
Patients with Alagille syndrome (AGS), a genetic disorder of Notch signaling, suffer from severe ductopenia and cholestasis, but progression to biliary cirrhosis is rare. Instead, in biliary atresia (BA) severe cholestasis is associated with a pronounced "ductular reaction" and rapid progression to biliary cirrhosis. Given the role of Notch in biliary development, we hypothesized that defective Notch signaling would influence the reparative mechanisms in cholestatic cholangiopathies. Thus we compared phenotype and relative abundance of the epithelial components of the hepatic reparative complex in AGS (n ؍ 10) and BA (n ؍ 30) using immunohistochemistry and computer-assisted morphometry.
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