Exogenous PP2A inhibitor exacerbates the progression of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease via NOX2-dependent activation of miR21

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2019 Oct 1;317(4):G408-G428. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00061.2019. Epub 2019 Aug 8.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an emerging global pandemic. Though significant progress has been made in unraveling the pathophysiology of the disease, the role of protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) and its subsequent inhibition by environmental and genetic factors in NAFLD pathophysiology remains unclear. The present report tests the hypothesis that an exogenous PP2A inhibitor leads to hepatic inflammation and fibrogenesis via an NADPH oxidase 2 (NOX2)-dependent pathway in NAFLD. Results showed that microcystin (MC) administration, a potent PP2A inhibitor found in environmental exposure, led to an exacerbation of NAFLD pathology with increased CD68 immunoreactivity, the release of proinflammatory cytokines, and stellate cell activation, a process that was attenuated in mice that lacked the p47phox gene and miR21 knockout mice. Mechanistically, leptin-primed immortalized Kupffer cells (a mimicked model for an NAFLD condition) treated with apocynin or nitrone spin trap 5,5 dimethyl-1- pyrroline N-oxide (DMPO) had significantly decreased CD68 and decreased miR21 and α-smooth muscle actin levels, suggesting the role of NOX2-dependent reactive oxygen species in miR21-induced Kupffer cell activation and stellate cell pathology. Furthermore, NOX2-dependent peroxynitrite generation was primarily responsible for cellular events observed following MC exposure since incubation with phenylboronic acid attenuated miR21 levels, Kupffer cell activation, and inflammatory cytokine release. Furthermore, blocking of the AKT pathway attenuated PP2A inhibitor-induced NOX2 activation and miR21 upregulation. Taken together, we show that PP2A may have protective roles, and its inhibition exacerbates NAFLD pathology via activating NOX2-dependent peroxynitrite generation, thus increasing miR21-induced pathology.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Protein phosphatase 2A inhibition causes nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) progression via NADPH oxidase 2. In addition to a novel emchanism of action, we describe a new tool to describe NASH histopathology.

Keywords: NADPH; NAFLD; NOX-2; PP2A inhibitor; leptin; miR21; microcystin; oxidative stress; siRNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD / biosynthesis
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / toxicity*
  • Hepatic Stellate Cells / drug effects
  • Kupffer Cells / drug effects
  • Kupffer Cells / metabolism
  • Liver Cirrhosis / chemically induced
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Microcystins / toxicity
  • NADPH Oxidase 2 / genetics
  • NADPH Oxidase 2 / metabolism*
  • NADPH Oxidases / metabolism
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / chemically induced*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / metabolism*
  • Peroxynitrous Acid / metabolism
  • Protein Phosphatase 2 / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic
  • CD68 protein, mouse
  • Cytokines
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • MIRN21 microRNA, mouse
  • MicroRNAs
  • Microcystins
  • Peroxynitrous Acid
  • microcystin
  • Cybb protein, mouse
  • NADPH Oxidase 2
  • NADPH Oxidases
  • neutrophil cytosolic factor 1
  • Protein Phosphatase 2