CCN3/NOV small interfering RNA enhances fibrogenic gene expression in primary hepatic stellate cells and cirrhotic fat storing cell line CFSC

J Cell Commun Signal. 2012 Mar;6(1):11-25. doi: 10.1007/s12079-011-0141-3. Epub 2011 Jul 5.


Nephroblastoma overexpressed gene encodes a matricellular protein (CCN3/NOV) of the CCN family, comprising CCN1 (CYR61), CCN2 (CTGF), CCN4 (WISP-1), CCN5 (WISP-2), and CCN6 (WISP-3). CCN proteins are involved in the regulation of mitosis, adhesion, apoptosis, extracellular matrix production, growth arrest and migration in multiple cell types. Compared to CCN2/CTGF, known as a profibrotic protein, the biological role of CCN3/NOV in liver fibrosis remains obscure. In this study we showed ccn3/nov mRNA to increase dramatically following hepatic stellate cell activation, reaching peak levels in fully transdifferentiated myofibroblasts. In models of experimental hepatic fibrosis, CCN3/NOV increased significantly at the mRNA and protein levels. CCN3/NOV was found mainly in non-parenchymal cells along the areas of tissue damage and repair. In the bile-duct ligation model, CCN3/NOV was localized mainly along portal tracts, while the repeated application of carbon tetrachloride resulted in CCN3/NOV expression mainly in the centrilobular areas. In contrast to CCN2/CTGF, the profibrotic cytokines platelet-derived growth factor-B and -D as well as transforming growth factor-β suppressed CCN3/NOV expression. In vitro, CCN3/NOV siRNA attenuated migration in the cirrhotic fat storing cell line CFSC well in line with in vivo findings that various types of cells expressing CCN3/NOV migrate into the area of tissue damage and regeneration. The suppression of CCN3/NOV enhanced expression of profibrotic marker proteins, such as α-smooth muscle actin, collagen type I, fibronectin, CCN2/CTGF and TIMP-1 in primary rat hepatic stellate cells and in CFSC. We further found that adenoviral overexpression of CCN2/CTGF suppressed CCN3/NOV expression, while the overexpression of CCN3/NOV as well as the suppression of CCN3/NOV by targeting siRNAs both resulted in enhanced CCN2/CTGF expression. These results indicate the complexity of CCN actions that are far beyond the classic Yin/Yang interplay.