N-Acetylgalactosaminyltransferase-4 protects against hepatic ischaemia/reperfusion injury via blocking ASK1 N-terminal dimerization

Hepatology. 2021 Oct 18. doi: 10.1002/hep.32202. Online ahead of print.


Background & aims: Ischemia reperfusion (I/R) injury is an inevitable complication of liver transplantation and compromises its prognosis. Glycosyltransferases have been recognized as promising targets for disease therapy, but their roles remain largely unknown in hepatic I/R injury. Here, we aim to demonstrate the exact function and molecular mechanism of a glycosyltransferase, N-Acetylgalactosaminyltransferase-4 (GALNT4), in hepatic I/R injury.

Approach & results: Via an RNA-seq data-based correlation analysis, we found a close correlation between GALNT4 expression and hepatic I/R-related molecular events in murine model. The mRNA and protein expression of GALNT4 were markedly upregulated upon reperfusion surgery in both clinical samples from subjects underwent liver transplantation and mouse model. We found that GALNT4 deficiency significantly exacerbated I/R-induced liver damage, inflammation and cell death, whereas GALNT4 overexpression led to the opposite phenotypes. Our in-depth mechanistic exploration clarified that GALNT4 directly binds to the apoptosis signal-regulating kinase1 (ASK1) to inhibit its N-terminal dimerization and subsequent phosphorylation, leading to a robust inactivation of the downstream c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) / p38 and nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) signalling. Intriguingly, the inhibitory capacity of GALNT4 on ASK1 activation is independent of its glycosyltransferase activity.

Conclusions: GALNT4 represents a promising therapeutic target for liver I/R injury and improve liver surgery prognosis by inactivating ASK1-JNK/p38 signalling pathway.

Keywords: ASK1; Apoptosis; GALNT4; Hepatic I/R injury; Hepatology; Inflammation; Ischaemia/reperfusion; cell death.