Background & aims: Hepatic stellate cell activation is a wound-healing response to liver injury. However, continued activation of stellate cells during chronic liver damage causes excessive matrix deposition and the formation of pathological scar tissue leading to fibrosis and ultimately cirrhosis. The importance of sustained stellate cell activation for this pathological process is well recognized, and several signalling pathways that can promote stellate cell activation have been identified, such as the TGFβ-, PDGF-, and LPS-dependent pathways. However, the mechanisms that trigger and drive the early steps in activation are not well understood.
Methods and results: We identified the Hippo pathway and its effector YAP as a key pathway that controls stellate cell activation. YAP is a transcriptional co-activator and we found that it drives the earliest changes in gene expression during stellate cell activation. Activation of stellate cells in vivo by CCl4 administration to mice or activation in vitro caused rapid activation of YAP as revealed by its nuclear translocation and by the induction of YAP target genes. YAP was also activated in stellate cells of human fibrotic livers as evidenced by its nuclear localization. Importantly, knockdown of YAP expression or pharmacological inhibition of YAP prevented hepatic stellate cell activation in vitro and pharmacological inhibition of YAP impeded fibrogenesis in mice.
Conclusions: YAP activation is a critical driver of hepatic stellate cell activation and inhibition of YAP presents a novel approach for the treatment of liver fibrosis.
Keywords: Ankrd1; Ctgf; Fibrosis; Gene expression profiling; Hepatic stellate cell; Liver; Spheroid; YAP.
Copyright © 2015 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.