Growth hormone (GH) resistance has been associated with liver cirrhosis in humans but its contribution to the disease remains controversial. In order to elucidate whether GH resistance plays a causal role in the establishment and development of liver fibrosis, or rather represents a major consequence thereof, we challenged mice lacking the GH receptor gene (Ghr(-/-), a model for GH resistance) by crossing them with Mdr2 knockout mice (Mdr2(-/-)), a mouse model of inflammatory cholestasis and liver fibrosis. Ghr(-/-);Mdr2(-/-) mice showed elevated serum markers associated with liver damage and cholestasis, extensive bile duct proliferation, and increased collagen deposition relative to Mdr2(-/-) mice, thus suggesting a more severe liver fibrosis phenotype. Additionally, Ghr(-/-);Mdr2(-/-) mice had a pronounced down-regulation of hepatoprotective genes Hnf6, Egfr, and Igf-1, and significantly increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and apoptosis in hepatocytes, compared to control mice. Moreover, single knockout mice (Ghr(-/-)) fed with a diet containing 1% cholic acid displayed an increase in hepatocyte ROS production, hepatocyte apoptosis, and bile infarcts compared to their wild-type littermates, indicating that loss of Ghr renders hepatocytes more susceptible to toxic bile acid accumulation. Surprisingly, and despite their severe fibrotic phenotype, Ghr(-/-);Mdr2(-/-) mice displayed a significant decrease in tumor incidence compared to Mdr2(-/-) mice, indicating that loss of Ghr signaling may slow the progression from fibrosis/cirrhosis to cancer in the liver.
Conclusion: GH resistance dramatically exacerbates liver fibrosis in a mouse model of inflammatory cholestasis, therefore suggesting that GH resistance plays a causal role in the disease and provides a novel target for the development of liver fibrosis treatments.
© 2014 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.