MicroRNA-223 Suppresses Human Hepatic Stellate Cell Activation Partly via Regulating the Actin Cytoskeleton and Alleviates Fibrosis in Organoid Models of Liver Injury

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Aug 19;23(16):9380. doi: 10.3390/ijms23169380.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, non-coding RNAs that negatively regulate target mRNA expression, and altered expression of miRNAs is associated with liver pathological conditions. Recent studies in animal models have shown neutrophil/myeloid-specific microRNA-223 (miR-223) as a key regulator in the development of various liver diseases including fibrosis, where hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) are the key player in pathogenesis. However, the precise roles of miR-223 in human HSCs and its therapeutic potential to control fibrosis remain largely unexplored. Using primary human HSCs, we demonstrated that miR-223 suppressed the fibrogenic program and cellular proliferation while promoting features of quiescent HSCs including lipid re-accumulation and retinol storage. Furthermore, induction of miR-223 in HSCs decreased cellular motility and contraction. Mechanistically, miR-223 negatively regulated expression of smooth muscle α-actin (α-SMA) and thus reduced cytoskeletal activity, which is known to promote amplification of fibrogenic signals. Restoration of α-SMA in miR-223-overexpressing HSCs alleviated the antifibrotic effects of miR-223. Finally, to explore the therapeutic potential of miR-233 in liver fibrosis, we generated co-cultured organoids of HSCs with Huh7 hepatoma cells and challenged them with acetaminophen (APAP) or palmitic acid (PA) to induce hepatotoxicity. We showed that ectopic expression of miR-223 in HSCs attenuated fibrogenesis in the two human organoid models of liver injury, suggesting its potential application in antifibrotic therapy.

Keywords: cytoskeleton; hepatic stellate cell; liver fibrosis; mechanotransduction; miR-223; microRNA; organoid model.

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton* / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Hepatic Stellate Cells* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs* / metabolism
  • Organoids / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • MIRN223 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs