Overexpression of Bcl-2 by activated human hepatic stellate cells: resistance to apoptosis as a mechanism of progressive hepatic fibrogenesis in humans

Novo, E.; Marra, F.; Zamara, E.; di Bonzo, L. Valfrè; Monitillo, L.; Cannito, S.; Petrai, I.; Mazzocca, A.; Bonacchi, A.; De Franco, R. S. M.; Colombatto, S.; Autelli, R.; Pinzani, M.; Parola, M.
August 2006
Gut;Aug2006, Vol. 55 Issue 8, p1174
Academic Journal
Background and aims: Myofibroblast-like cells, originating from activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSC/MFs), play a key role in liver fibrosis, a potentially reversible process that may rely on induction of HSC/MFs apoptosis. While this possibility has been shown in cultured rat HSC, very limited data are currently available for human HSC/MFs. Methods: Cultured human HSC/MFs were exposed to several proapoptotic stimuli, including those known to induce apoptosis in rat HSC/MFs, and induction of cell death and related mechanisms were investigated using morphology, molecular biology, and biochemical techniques. Results: In this study we report that fully activated human HSC/MFs did not undergo spontaneous apoptosis and survived to prolonged serum deprivation, Fas activation, or exposure to nerve growth factor, tumour necrosis factor α (TNF-α), oxidative stress mediators, doxorubicin, and etoposide. Induction of caspase dependent, mitochondria driven apoptosis in HSC/MFs was observed only when protein synthesis or transcription were inhibited. Importantly, the process of HSC activation was accompanied by changes in expression of a set of genes involved in apoptosis control. In particular, activated human HSC/MFs in culture overexpressed Bcl-2. The role of Bcl-2 was crucial as Bcl-2 silenced cells became susceptible to TNF-α induced apoptosis. Finally, Bcl-2 was markedly expressed in HSC/MFs present in liver tissue obtained from patients with hepatitis C virus related cirrhosis. Conclusions: Human activated HSC/MFs are resistant to most proapoptotic stimuli due to Bcl-2 overexpression and this feature may play a key role in the progression of fibrosis in chronic liver diseases.


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