Role of the Ets-1 transcription factor during activation of rat hepatic stellate cells in culture

Am J Pathol. 1999 Dec;155(6):1841-8. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)65502-2.


During liver tissue repair, hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), a pericyte-like nonparenchymal liver cell population, transform from a quiescent status (resting HSCs) into myofibroblast like cells (activated HSCs); the latter is the principal matrix-synthesizing cell of the liver. Although several factors have been shown to be involved in this important process, the molecular mechanisms regulating HSC activation are still under investigation. To identify key regulatory proteins involved in the HSC activation process, we used different mRNA display technologies, with cDNAs prepared from HSCs at different stages of in vitro activation. With the latter technique, the transcription factor Ets-1 was detected through its down-regulation during activation. As confirmed by Northern blot and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis, mRNAs coding for Ets-1 were present in the highest amounts in freshly isolated HSCs and in HSCs 2 days after plating (classified as resting HSCs/early activated HSCs) and were diminished in HSCs 7 days after plating (activated cells). Ets-1 protein was present in HSC-lysates, as assessed by Western blot, and bound to an oligonucleotide containing the Ets-1 consensus cis-acting motif, as demonstrated by electrophoretic mobility shift assay. Ets-1 binding activity peaked in nuclear extracts prepared from resting/early activated cells and was diminished in extracts derived from fully activated cells. In contrast, binding activity of the transcription factors TFIID, AP-1, and SP-1 was highest in activated HSCs and only barely detectable in resting/early activated HSCs. By Northern blot and RT-PCR analysis, Ets-1-specific transcripts were present in parenchymal and other nonparenchymal liver cells too, illustrating that hepatic Ets-1 expression is not specific or restricted to HSCs. However, the unique pattern of Ets-1 binding activity present in resting versus activated HSCs and its known implications for cellular differentiation and tissue remodeling suggest that Ets-1 could be of crucial importance for HSC activation and hepatic tissue repair.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Line
  • DNA, Complementary / analysis
  • Down-Regulation
  • Gene Expression / physiology*
  • Liver / cytology*
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Proto-Oncogene Protein c-ets-1
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / physiology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ets
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Transcription Factors / biosynthesis
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*


  • DNA, Complementary
  • Ets1 protein, rat
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Protein c-ets-1
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ets
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transcription Factors