The FXR agonist PX20606 ameliorates portal hypertension by targeting vascular remodelling and sinusoidal dysfunction

J Hepatol. 2017 Apr;66(4):724-733. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2016.12.005. Epub 2016 Dec 18.


Background & aims: Steroidal farnesoid X receptor (FXR) agonists demonstrated potent anti-fibrotic activities and lowered portal hypertension in experimental models. The impact of the novel non-steroidal and selective FXR agonist PX20606 on portal hypertension and fibrosis was explored in this study.

Methods: In experimental models of non-cirrhotic (partial portal vein ligation, PPVL, 7days) and cirrhotic (carbon tetrachloride, CCl4, 14weeks) portal hypertension, PX20606 (PX,10mg/kg) or the steroidal FXR agonist obeticholic acid (OCA,10mg/kg) were gavaged. We then measured portal pressure, intrahepatic vascular resistance, liver fibrosis and bacterial translocation.

Results: PX decreased portal pressure in non-cirrhotic PPVL (12.6±1.7 vs. 10.4±1.1mmHg; p=0.020) and cirrhotic CCl4 (15.2±0.5 vs. 11.8±0.4mmHg; p=0.001) rats. In PPVL animals, we observed less bacterial translocation (-36%; p=0.041), a decrease in lipopolysaccharide binding protein (-30%; p=0.024) and splanchnic tumour necrosis factor α levels (-39%; p=0.044) after PX treatment. In CCl4 rats, PX decreased fibrotic Sirius Red area (-43%; p=0.005), hepatic hydroxyproline (-66%; p<0.001), and expression of profibrogenic proteins (Col1a1, α smooth muscle actin, transforming growth factor β). CCl4-PX rats had significantly lower transaminase levels and reduced hepatic macrophage infiltration. Moreover, PX induced sinusoidal vasodilation (upregulation of cystathionase, dimethylaminohydrolase (DDAH)1, endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), GTP-cyclohydrolase1) and reduced intrahepatic vasoconstriction (downregulation of endothelin-1, p-Moesin). In cirrhosis, PX improved endothelial dysfunction (decreased von-Willebrand factor) and normalized overexpression of vascular endothelial growth factor, platelet-derived growth factor and angiopoietins. While short-term 3-day PX treatment reduced portal pressure (-14%; p=0.041) by restoring endothelial function, 14week PX therapy additionally inhibited sinusoidal remodelling and decreased portal pressure to a greater extent (-22%; p=0.001). In human liver sinusoidal endothelial cells, PX increased eNOS and DDAH expression.

Conclusions: The non-steroidal FXR agonist PX20606 ameliorates portal hypertension by reducing liver fibrosis, vascular remodelling and sinusoidal dysfunction.

Lay summary: The novel drug PX20606 activates the bile acid receptor FXR and shows beneficial effects in experimental liver cirrhosis: In the liver, it reduces scarring and inflammation, and also widens blood vessels. Thus, PX20606 leads to an improved blood flow through the liver and decreases hypertension of the portal vein. Additionally, PX20606 improves the altered intestinal barrier and decreases bacterial migration from the gut.

Keywords: Bacterial translocation; Cirrhosis; FXR agonist; Farnesoid X receptor; Fibrosis; Intestinal permeability; Mouse; PX20606; Portal hypertension; Rat.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzoates / therapeutic use*
  • Bile Acids and Salts / biosynthesis
  • Bilirubin / blood
  • Capillaries / drug effects
  • Capillaries / physiopathology
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Hypertension, Portal / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension, Portal / pathology
  • Hypertension, Portal / physiopathology
  • Isoxazoles / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / drug therapy
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / agonists*
  • Vascular Remodeling / drug effects*
  • Vascular Remodeling / physiology
  • Vascular Resistance / drug effects


  • 4-(2-(2-chloro-4-((5-cyclopropyl-3-(2,6-dichlorophenyl)-4-isoxazolyl)methoxy)phenyl)cyclopropyl)benzoic acid
  • Benzoates
  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Isoxazoles
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • farnesoid X-activated receptor
  • Cholesterol
  • Bilirubin