Adiponectin limits the development of liver fibrosis and activates adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK). AMPK is a sensor of the cellular energy status, but its possible modulation of the fibrogenic properties of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) has not been established. In this study, we investigated the role of AMPK activation in the biology of activated human HSCs. A time-dependent activation of AMPK was observed in response to a number of stimuli, including globular adiponectin, 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-beta-4-ribofuranoside (AICAR), or metformin. All these compounds significantly inhibited platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-stimulated proliferation and migration of human HSCs and reduced the secretion of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1. In addition, AICAR limited the secretion of type I procollagen. Knockdown of AMPK by gene silencing increased the mitogenic effects of PDGF, confirming the negative modulation exerted by this pathway on HSCs. AMPK activation did not reduce PDGF-dependent activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) or Akt at early time points, whereas a marked inhibition was observed 24 hours after addition of PDGF, reflecting a block in cell cycle progression. In contrast, AICAR blocked short-term phosphorylation of ribosomal S6 kinase (p70(S6K)) and 4E binding protein-1 (4EBP1), 2 downstream effectors of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, by PDGF. The ability of interleukin-a (IL-1) to activate nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kappaB) was also reduced by AICAR.
Conclusion: Activation of AMPK negatively modulates the activated phenotype of HSCs.