Hepatic stellate cells express the low affinity nerve growth factor receptor p75 and undergo apoptosis in response to nerve growth factor stimulation

Am J Pathol. 2000 Apr;156(4):1235-43. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)64994-2.


We have examined the expression of p75, a member of the TNF receptor superfamily in hepatic stellate cells (HSC) and pancreatic stellate cells (PSC). Activated HSC and PSC were demonstrated by Western blot analysis to express p75. p75 was immunolocalized to cells with a myofibroblast-like morphology in the fibrotic bands of six fibrotic and cirrhotic liver biopsies and three biopsies of fibrotic human pancreas. Immunostaining of parallel sections indicated that these cells were alpha-smooth muscle actin-positive, identifying them as activated HSC and PSC, respectively. HSC apoptosis in tissue culture in the presence of serum was quantified after addition of 0.1 to 100 ng/ml of nerve growth factor (NGF) a ligand for p75, by in situ counting of apoptotic bodies after addition of acridine orange. HSC demonstrated a significant increase in apoptosis in response to 100 ng/ml NGF (0.05 > P by Wilcoxon's rank; n = 7) after 24 hours. NGF 100 ng/ml had no effect on HSC proliferation, but reduced total HSC DNA by 19% relative to control after 24 hours (n = 3). These data demonstrate that activated HSC express p75 and respond to NGF stimulation by undergoing apoptosis. We therefore report p75 as a novel marker of activated HSC and suggest that signaling via ligand binding to p75 may provide a mechanism for selective apoptosis of HSC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Fibrosis
  • Humans
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / physiology*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / metabolism
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Experimental / metabolism
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Experimental / pathology
  • Nerve Growth Factor / pharmacology*
  • Pancreas / cytology
  • Pancreas / metabolism
  • Pancreas / pathology
  • Rats
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Proteins / pharmacology
  • Reference Values


  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Nerve Growth Factor