Prevention of D-GalN/LPS-induced ALI by 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid through PXR-mediated inhibition of autophagy degradation

Cell Death Dis. 2021 May 13;12(5):480. doi: 10.1038/s41419-021-03768-8.


Acute liver injury (ALI) has multiple causes and results in liver dysfunction. Severe or persistent liver injury eventually leads to liver failure and even death. Pregnane X receptor (PXR)-null mice present more severe liver damage and lower rates of autophagy. 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid (GA) has been proposed as a promising hepatoprotective agent. We hypothesized that GA significantly alleivates D-GalN/LPS-induced ALI, which involved in PXR-mediated autophagy and lysosome biogenesis. We found that GA can significantly decrease hepatocyte apoptosis and increase the hepatic autophagy marker LC3-B. Ad-mCherry-GFP-LC3 tandem fluorescence, RNA-seq and real-time PCR indicated that GA may stabilize autophagosomes and lysosomes and inhibit autophagosome-lysosome fusion. Simultaneously, GA markedly activates PXR, even reversing the D-GalN/LPS-induced reduction of PXR and its downstream genes. In contrast, GA has a weak protective effect in pharmacological inhibition of PXR and PXR-null mice, which significantly affected apoptosis- and autophagy-related genes. PXR knockout interferes with the stability of autophagosomes and lysosomes, preventing GA reducing the expression of lysosomal genes such as Cst B and TPP1, and suppressing autophagy flow. Therefore, we believe that GA increases autophagy by inhibiting autophagosome-lysosome fusion and blocked autophagy flux via activation of PXR. In conclusion, our results show that GA activates PXR to regulate autophagy and lysosome biogenesis, represented by inhibiting autophagosome-lysosome fusion and stabilization of lysosome. These results identify a new mechanism by which GA-dependent PXR activation reduces D-GalN/LPS-induced acute liver injury.