Background & aims: Metabolic stress during liver injury enhances autophagy and provokes stellate cell activation, with secretion of scar matrix. Conditions that augment protein synthesis increase demands on the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) folding capacity and trigger the unfolded protein response (UPR) to cope with resulting ER stress. Generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) is a common feature of hepatic fibrogenesis, and crosstalk between oxidant stress and ER stress has been proposed. The aim of our study was to determine the impact of oxidant and ER stress on stellate cell activation.
Methods: Oxidant stress was induced in hepatic stellate cells using H2O2 in culture or by ethanol feeding in vivo, and the UPR was analyzed. Because the branch of the UPR mainly affected was IREα, we blocked this pathway in stellate cells and analyzed the fibrogenic response, together with autophagy and downstream MAPK signaling. The Nrf2 antioxidant response was also evaluated in stellate cells under oxidant stress conditions.
Results: H2O2 treatment in culture or ethanol feeding in vivo increased the UPR based on splicing of XBP1 mRNA, which triggered autophagy. The Nrf2-mediated antioxidant response, as measured by qRT-PCR of its target genes was also induced under ER stress conditions. Conversely, blockade of the IRE1α pathway in stellate cells significantly decreased both their activation and autophagic activity in a p38 MAPK-dependent manner, leading to a reduced fibrogenic response.
Conclusions: These data implicate mechanisms underlying protein folding quality control in regulating the fibrogenic response in hepatic stellate cells.
Copyright © 2013 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.