Ergothioneine suppresses hepatic stellate cell activation via promoting Foxa3-dependent potentiation of the Hint1/Smad7 cascade and improves CCl 4 -induced liver fibrosis in mice.
Ergothioneine (EGT) is a bioactive compound derived from certain edible mushrooms. The activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) is critically involved in the etiology of liver fibrosis (LF). Here, we report that in LX-2 HSCs, EGT upregulates the expression of Hint1 and Smad7 and suppresses their activation provoked by TGFβ1. The EGT-triggered inhibition of HSC activation is abolished by knocking down the expression of Hint1. Overexpression of Hint1 increases Smad7 and represses TGFβ1-provoked activation of LX-2 HSCs. In silico predictions unveiled that in the promoter region of the human Hint1 gene, there are two conserved cis -acting elements that have the potential to interact with the transcription factor Foxa3 termed hFBS1 and hFBS2, respectively. The knockdown of Foxa3 obviously declined Hint1 expression at both mRNA and protein levels. Transfection of Foxa3 or EGT treatment increased the activity of the luciferase reporter driven by the Hint1 promoter in an hFBS2-dependent manner. The knockdown of Foxa3 eliminated EGT-mediated upregulation of Hint1 promoter activity. Additionally, EGT triggered the nuclear translocation of Foxa3 without obviously affecting its expression level. Molecular docking analysis showed that EGT has the potential to directly interact with the Foxa3 protein. Moreover, Foxa3 played a critical role in EGT-mediated hepatoprotection. EGT modulated the Foxa3/Hint1/Smad7 signaling in mouse primary HSCs and inhibited their activation. The gavage of EGT considerably relieved CCl4 -induced LF in mice. Our data provide new insights into the anti-LF activity of EGT. Mechanistically, EGT triggers the nuclear translocation of Foxa3 in HSCs, which promotes Hint1 transcription and subsequently elevates Smad7.
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