Background & aims: Hepatic lipocyte proliferation and activation are pivotal in liver fibrosis. Disruption of normal lipocyte-matrix interactions may contribute to this process. The synthesis of transin, which degrades normal liver matrix, by culture-activated hepatic lipocytes was investigated.
Methods: Lipocytes were isolated by pronase/collagenase perfusion, density gradient centrifugation, and centrifugal elutriation. Transin messenger RNA in lipocytes was analyzed by Northern blotting. Transin activity was analyzed by zymography, Western blotting, immunocytochemistry, and quantitative [14C]beta-casein degradation assay.
Results: Transin messenger RNA was detected in early primary culture (3-5 days) but not in freshly isolated lipocytes or late primary culture. Zymography of lipocyte medium showed caseinolytic activity (relative molecular weight, 57 kilodaltons and 60 kilodaltons) inhibited by ethyl-enediaminetetraacetic acid but not thiol or serine protease inhibitors. Immunoblotting and immunocytochemistry confirmed the presence of transin in media and cells. Quantitative transin activity decreased progressively with increasing duration of primary lipocyte culture and myofibroblastic transformation.
Conclusion: Rat hepatic lipocytes express the transin gene and secrete its product during the early phase of lipocyte activation in primary culture. Because this enzyme degrades a wide spectrum of normal basement membrane proteins and activates progelatinase B and interstitial collagenase, it may have an important role in liver injury and fibrosis.