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J Hepatol. 2007 Nov;47(5):699-710. Epub 2007 Jun 26.

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

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  • 1Institute of Clinical Chemistry and Pathobiochemistry, RWTH-University Hospital, D-52074 Aachen, Germany.



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.


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.


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.


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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