Astaxanthin prevents and reverses the activation of mouse primary hepatic stellate cells

Yue Yang, Minkyung Bae, Bohkyung Kim, Young-Ki Park, Sung I Koo, Ji-Young Lee
Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 2016, 29: 21-6
Activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) is a critical step that leads to the development of liver fibrosis. We showed that astaxanthin (ASTX), a xanthophyll carotenoid, displays antifibrogenic effects in LX-2 cells, a human HSC cell line. In this study, we further determined the effect of ASTX on HSC activation and inactivation using primary HSCs from C57BL/6J mice. Quiescent and activated HSCs were incubated with ASTX (25μM) at different stages of activation. ASTX prevented the activation of quiescent HSCs, as evidenced by the presence of intracellular lipid droplets and reduction of α-smooth muscle actin, an HSC activation marker. Also, ASTX reverted activated HSCs to a quiescent phenotype with the reappearance of lipid droplets with a concomitant increase in lecithin retinol acyltransferase mRNA. Cellular accumulation of reactive oxygen species was significantly reduced by ASTX, which was attributable to a decrease in NADPH oxidase 2 expression. The antifibrogenic effect of ASTX was independent of nuclear erythroid 2-related factor 2 as it was observed in HSCs from wild-type and Nrf2(-/-) mice. In conclusion, ASTX inhibits HSC activation and reverts activated HSCs to a quiescent state. Further investigation is warranted to determine if ASTX effectively prevents the development of liver fibrosis.

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