Differential effects of TGF-beta on connective tissue growth factor (CTGF/CCN2) expression in hepatic stellate cells and hepatocytes

Olav A Gressner, Birgit Lahme, Ilhan Demirci, Axel M Gressner, Ralf Weiskirchen
Journal of Hepatology 2007, 47 (5): 699-710

BACKGROUND/AIMS: Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF/CCN2) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of hepatic fibrosis and suggested as a downstream mediator of the fibrogenic master cytokine TGF-beta.

METHODS: We investigated the effect of TGF-beta1 on CTGF/CCN2 expression in cultured rat hepatic stellate cells and hepatocytes by means of Western and Northern blotting, immunocytochemistry, reporter gene analysis, and metabolic labelling.

RESULTS: We found that the expression of CTGF/CCN2 in hepatic stellate cells is (i) only marginally (if at all) stimulated by TGF-beta and by a constitutively active type I TGF-beta receptor, (ii) independent from Smad2/3 phosphorylation, (iii) not reduced by TGF-beta1 antagonists or ALK5-receptor inhibitors and (iv) not upregulated during transdifferentiation to myofibroblasts in culture. However, expression and secretion of CTGF/CCN2 in cultured hepatocytes increased spontaneously during culture and was strongly stimulated by TGF-beta1. In bile-duct ligated and CCl(4)-treated rat livers, a strong CTGF/CCN2 expression in hepatocytes was noticed. Endothelin-1 stimulated CTGF/CCN2 expression in stellate cells but not in hepatocytes. Pathway specific signalling inhibitors point to the involvement of non-Smad signalling cascades but their contribution to CTGF/CCN2 regulation is different in both cell types.

CONCLUSIONS: The results do not reveal a relevant interrelation between TGF-beta function and CTGF/CCN2 expression in hepatic stellate cells, which is in contrast to hepatocytes.

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