Molecular pathogenesis of hepatic fibrosis and current therapeutic approaches

Chem Biol Interact. 2011 Sep 30;193(3):225-31. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2011.07.001. Epub 2011 Jul 22.


The pathogenesis of hepatic fibrosis involves significant deposition of fibrilar collagen and other extracellular matrix proteins. It is a rather dynamic process of wound healing in response to a variety of persistent liver injury caused by factors such as ethanol intake, viral infection, drugs, toxins, cholestasis, and metabolic disorders. Liver fibrosis distorts the hepatic architecture, decreases the number of endothelial cell fenestrations and causes portal hypertension. Key events are the activation and transformation of quiescent hepatic stellate cells into myofibroblast-like cells with the subsequent up-regulation of proteins such as α-smooth muscle actin, interstitial collagens, matrix metalloproteinases, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases, and proteoglycans. Oxidative stress is a major contributing factor to the onset of liver fibrosis and it is typically associated with a decrease in the antioxidant defense. Currently, there is no effective therapy for advanced liver fibrosis. In its early stages, liver fibrosis is reversible upon cessation of the causative agent. In this review, we discuss some aspects on the etiology of liver fibrosis, the cells involved, the molecular pathogenesis, and the current therapeutic approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Therapy
  • Hepatic Stellate Cells / cytology
  • Hepatitis, Alcoholic / complications
  • Hepatitis, Alcoholic / pathology
  • Hepatitis, Viral, Human / complications
  • Hepatitis, Viral, Human / pathology
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / etiology*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / therapy
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / therapeutic use
  • Oxidative Stress
  • RNA Interference


  • MicroRNAs
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases