Background & aims: In liver fibrosis, alterations within the space of Disse microenvironment occur and facilitate further progression of chronic liver disease. The normal basement membrane-like matrix present within the space of Disse converts to a matrix rich in fibril-forming collagens during fibrosis.
Methods: To further understand the pathogenesis of liver fibrosis, we modified an in vitro Boyden chamber system to partially mimic in vivo conditions of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) during health and disease.
Results: Stimulation of HSCs with platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-BB, transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta1, and/or epithelial growth factor (EGF) resulted in an increase in their migratory capacity and up-regulated matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 activity. Migration induced by PDGF-BB was associated with increased proliferation, whereas TGF-beta1/EGF-induced migration was proliferation independent. COL-3, an inhibitor of MMP-2 and MMP-9, inhibited migration of HSCs induced by direct activation of PDGF-BB or TGF-beta1 but had no effect on migration induced by chemotactic stimuli without direct contact, suggesting 2 distinct MMP-dependent and MMP-independent mechanisms of PDGF-BB- or TGF-beta1-induced migration. Additionally, we show that type I collagen by itself induced migration of HSCs. Migration induced by PDGF-BB, TGF-beta1, and collagen I could be inhibited by alpha(1)- and/or alpha(2)-integrin blocking antibodies, collectively suggesting an integrin-dependent, MMP-2-mediated migration of HSCs.
Conclusions: Basement membrane matrix integrity, composition, and cell-matrix interactions play an important role in anchoring HSCs and preventing them from spreading within the space of Disse and potentially elsewhere in the liver. Additionally, our data provide strong evidence for MMPs in regulation of HSCs migration.