Aim: To determine the molecular mechanisms involved in experimental hepatic fibrosis prevention by caffeine (CFA).
Methods: Liver fibrosis was induced in Wistar rats by intraperitoneal thioacetamide or bile duct ligation and they were concomitantly treated with CFA (15 mg/kg per day). Fibrosis and inflammatory cell infiltrate were evaluated and classified by Knodell index. Inflammatory infiltrate was quantified by immunohistochemistry (anti-CD11b). Gene expression was analyzed by quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction for collagen I (Col-1), connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-1 (IL-1), IL-6, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT). Activation of Nrf2 and Snail-1 was analyzed by Western-blot. TNF-α expression was proved by enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay, CAT activity was performed by zymography.
Results: CFA treatment diminished fibrosis index in treated animals. The Knodell index showed both lower fibrosis and necroinflammation. Expression of profibrogenic genes CTGF, Col-1 and TGF-β1 and proinflammatory genes TNF-α, IL-6 and IL-1 was substantially diminished with CFA treatment with less CD11b positive areas. Significantly lower values of transcriptional factor Snail-1 were detected in CFA treated rats compared with cirrhotic rats without treatment; in contrast Nrf2 was increased in the presence of CFA. Expression of SOD and CAT was greater in animals treated with CFA showing a strong correlation between mRNA expression and enzyme activity.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that CFA inhibits the transcriptional factor Snail-1, down-regulating profibrogenic genes, and activates Nrf2 inducing antioxidant enzymes system, preventing inflammation and fibrosis.
Keywords: Antioxidant enzymes; Bile duct ligation; Caffeine; Liver fibrosis; Profibrogenic genes; Proinflammatory cytokines; Thioacetamide.