Background/aims: Plasminogen activators and plasminogen activator inhibitors are important regulators of the balance between the proteolytic and antiproteolytic activities that determine extracellular matrix turnover. We examined the expression of plasminogen activator-plasmin system components in experimental liver fibrosis of rats.
Methods: Liver fibrosis was produced in rats by injecting carbon tetrachloride for 6 to 12 weeks. Gene expression for plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), urokinase and tissue plasminogen activators (uPA and tPA), urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR), and transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1) was examined by Northern analysis. Western analysis was performed to detect protein expression of PAI-1, uPA and uPAR. An immunohistochemical study was performed to detect the localization of PAI-1. Additionally, primary cultured liver cells were examined by Northern and Western analyses for this protein with or without prior incubation with TGF-beta1.
Results: At 6 weeks, when fibrosis had occurred, uPA and uPAR mRNAs had increased 2.8-fold and 1.8-fold, respectively; PAI-1 and tPA mRNA levels were unchanged. At the cirrhotic stage (9 to 12 weeks), mRNA levels for PAI-1, uPA, uPAR and tPA were all increased. Western analysis also showed increased uPA and uPAR expressions in fibrotic liver, and increased PAI-1, uPA and uPAR expressions in cirrhotic liver. PAI-1 protein was also demonstrated immunohistochemically along sinusoids, vessels, and bile duct cells of normal and fibrotic liver. In liver cell cultures, Kupffer cells, hepatocytes, and especially stellate cells, expressed PAI-1. Expression was enhanced in stellate cells cultured from fibrotic or cirrhotic liver or stimulated in vitro with TGF-beta1.
Conclusion: Though increased uPA and uPAR may act on matrix degradation in fibrotic liver, increased PAI-1 together with uPA, uPAR and tPA are associated with overall inhibition of matrix degradation in cirrhotic liver. Hepatic stellate cells are an important source of PAI-1 during liver fibrosis.