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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2004 Mar;308(3):1191-6. Epub 2003 Nov 14.

The caspase inhibitor IDN-6556 attenuates hepatic injury and fibrosis in the bile duct ligated mouse.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Mayo Medical School, Clinic, and Foundation, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.


Liver injury is characterized by hepatocyte apoptosis and collagen-producing activated hepatic stellate cells (HSC). Hepatocyte apoptosis promotes liver injury and fibrosis, whereas activated HSC apoptosis limits hepatic fibrosis. Pharmacological inhibition of liver cell apoptosis may potentially attenuate liver injury and fibrosis by blocking hepatocyte apoptosis or promote fibrosis by permitting accumulation of activated HSCs. To ascertain the net effect of inhibiting liver cell apoptosis on liver injury, inflammation, and hepatic fibrogenesis, we examined the effect of a pancaspase inhibition IDN-6556 on these parameters in the bile duct ligated (BDL) mouse. Hepatocyte apoptosis was assessed by the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick-end labeling assay and immunofluorescence for active caspases 3/7, and liver injury by histopathology and serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) determinations. Real-time polymerase chain reaction was used to measure mRNA transcripts for markers of hepatic inflammation, HSC activation, and fibrosis. Immunohistochemistry for alpha-smooth muscle actin was performed to identify HSC activation. Collagen deposition was quantitated by Sirius red staining and digital imaging techniques. Hepatocyte apoptosis and liver injury (bile infarcts and serum ALT values) were reduced in IDN-6556-treated versus saline-treated 3-day BDL mice. Markers for liver inflammation [chemokine (C-X-C) ligand 1 and macrophage inflammatory protein-2 chemokine expression] and hepatic fibrogenesis (transforming growth factor-beta and collagen I expression) were also attenuated. Consistent with these data, HSC activation as assessed by alpha-smooth muscle actin mRNA expression and immunohistochemistry was markedly reduced in both 3- and 10-day BDL animals. Collectively, these data suggest hepatocyte apoptosis initiates cascades culminating in liver injury and fibrosis. The pan-caspase inhibitor IDN-6556 is a promising agent for cholestatic liver injury.

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