Hepatic fibrosis is a scarring process that is associated with an increased and altered deposition of extracellular matrix in liver. At the cellular and molecular level, this progressive process is mainly characterized by cellular activation of hepatic stellate cells and aberrant activity of transforming growth factor-β1 and its downstream cellular mediators. Although the cellular responses to this cytokine are complex, the signalling pathways of this pivotal cytokine during the fibrogenic response and its connection to other signal cascades are now understood in some detail. Based on the current advances in understanding the pleiotropic reactions during fibrogenesis, various inhibitors of transforming growth factor-β were developed and are now being investigated as potential drug candidates in experimental models of hepatic injury. Although it is too early to favour one of these antagonists for the treatment of hepatic fibrogenesis in human, the experimental results obtained yet provide stimulatory impulses for the development of an effective treatment of choice in the not too distant future. The present review summarises the actual knowledge on the pathogenesis of hepatic fibrogenesis, the role of transforming growth factor-β and its signalling pathways in promoting the fibrogenic response, and the therapeutic modalities that are presently in the spotlight of many investigations and are already on the way to take the plunge into clinical studies.
TGF-beta has multiple profibrogenic but also anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects. The balance of these actions is required for maintaining tissue homeostasis and an aberrant expression of TGF-beta is involved in a number of disease processes in the liver. In addition to its fibrogenic action leading to transdifferentiation of hepatic stellate cells into myofibroblasts, TGF-beta is also an important negative regulator of proliferation and an inducer of apoptosis. The major portion of TGF-beta is secreted as part of an inactive complex and the details of the activation process in liver have not yet been elucidated. The initially striking simplicity of the core TGF-beta/Smad signaling pathways is rapidly giving way to a much more complex view of intracellular signal transduction mechanisms and recent work has demonstrated the importance of cross-talk among different signaling pathways to either specify, enhance, or inhibit TGF-beta responses. The ubiquitous pathophysiologic relevance of TGF-beta suggests its measurement in blood as a diagnostic tool. Other strategies aim at inhibition of TGF-beta1 function or synthesis as a primary target for the development of antifibrotic strategies and recent advances in cell biology have opened several ways to approach the inhibition of TGF-beta action.
Pharmacological inhibition of CCR2 monocyte recruitment efficiently ameliorates insulin resistance, hepatic inflammation, and fibrosis, corroborating the therapeutic potential of CVC in patients with NASH. (Hepatology 2018;67:1270-1283).
BackgroundMonocyte-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.Methodology/Principal FindingsWe 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.Conclusions/SignificanceOur 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.
Here we identified Ito cells (hepatic stellate cells, HSC), known for storage of vitamin A and participation in hepatic fibrosis, as professional liver-resident antigen-presenting cells (APC). Ito cells efficiently presented antigens to CD1-, major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-I-, and MHC-II-restricted T cells. Ito cells presented lipid antigens to CD1-restricted T lymphocytes such as natural killer T (NKT) cells and promoted homeostatic proliferation of liver NKT cells through interleukin-15. Moreover, Ito cells presented antigenic peptides to CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cells and mediated crosspriming of CD8(+) T cells. Peptide-specific T cells were activated by transgenic Ito cells presenting endogenous neoantigen. Upon bacterial infection, Ito cells elicited antigen-specific T cells and mediated protection. In contrast to other liver cell types that have been implicated in induction of immunological tolerance, our data identify Ito cells as professional intrahepatic APCs activating T cells and eliciting a multitude of T cell responses specific for protein and lipid antigens.
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