Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF-21) is a secreted protein, which has anti-diabetic and lipocaic effects, but its ability to protect against hepatic fibrosis has not been studied. In this study, we investigated the ability of FGF-21 to attenuate dimethylnitrosamine (DMN)-induced hepatic fibrogenesis in mice and the mechanism of its action. Hepatic fibrosis was induced by injection of DMN, FGF-21 was administered to the mice once daily in association with DMN injection till the end of the experiment. Histopathological examination, tissue 4-hydroxyproline content and expressions of smooth muscle α-actin (α-SMA) and collagen I were measured to assess hepatic fibrosis. Ethanol/PDGF-BB-activated hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) were used to understand the mechanisms of FGF-21 inhibited hepatic fibrogenesis. Results showed that FGF-21 treatment attenuated hepatic fibrogenesis and was associated with a significant decrease in intrahepatic fibrogenesis, 4-hydroxyproline accumulation, α-SMA expression and collagen I deposition. FGF-21 treatment inhibited the activation of HSCs via down-regulating the expression of TGF-β, NF-κB nuclear translocation, phosphorylation levels of smad2/3 and IκBα. Besides, FGF-21 treatment caused activated HSC apoptosis with increasing expression of Caspase-3, and decreased the ratio of Bcl-2 to Bax. In conclusion, FGF-21 attenuates hepatic fibrogenesis and inhibits the activation of HSC warranting the use of FGF-21 as a potential therapeutic agent in the treatment of hepatic fibrosis.
Keywords: Fibroblast growth factor 21; Hepatic fibrogenesis; Hepatic stellate cells; NF-κB; TGF-β.
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