The etiology of liver damage imparts cytokines transforming growth factor beta1 or interleukin-13 as driving forces in fibrogenesis

Hepatology. 2009 Jul;50(1):230-43. doi: 10.1002/hep.22934.


It is unknown whether transforming growth factor beta1 (TGF-beta1) signaling uniformly participates in fibrogenic chronic liver diseases, irrespective of the underlying origin, or if other cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-13 share in fibrogenesis (e.g., due to regulatory effects on type I pro-collagen expression). TGF-beta1 signaling events were scored in 396 liver tissue samples from patients with diverse chronic liver diseases, including hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), Schistosoma japonicum infection, and steatosis/steatohepatitis. Phospho-Smad2 staining correlated significantly with fibrotic stage in patients with HBV infection (n = 112, P < 0.001) and steatosis/steatohepatitis (n = 120, P < 0.01), but not in patients with HCV infection (n = 77, P > 0.05). In tissue with HBx protein expression, phospho-Smad2 was detectable, suggesting a functional link between viral protein expression and TGF-beta1 signaling. For IL-13, immunostaining correlated with fibrotic stage in patients with HCV infection and steatosis/steatohepatitis. IL-13 protein was more abundant in liver tissue lysates from three HCV patients compared with controls, as were IL-13 serum levels in 68 patients with chronic HCV infection compared with 20 healthy volunteers (72.87 +/- 26.38 versus 45.41 +/- 3.73, P < 0.001). Immunohistochemistry results suggest that IL-13-mediated liver fibrogenesis may take place in the absence of phospho-signal transducer and activator of transcription protein 6 signaling. In a subgroup of patients with advanced liver fibrosis (stage > or =3), neither TGF-beta nor IL-13 signaling was detectable.

Conclusion: Depending on the cause of liver damage, a predominance of TGF-beta or IL-13 signaling is found. TGF-beta1 predominance is detected in HBV-related liver fibrogenesis and IL-13 predominance in chronic HCV infection. In some instances, the underlying fibrogenic mediator remains enigmatic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Interleukin-13 / physiology*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / etiology*
  • Liver Diseases / etiology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / physiology*


  • Interleukin-13
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1