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Hepatology. 2014 Mar;59(3):1118-29. doi: 10.1002/hep.26768. Epub 2014 Jan 27.

Epigenetic regulation of connective tissue growth factor by MicroRNA-214 delivery in exosomes from mouse or human hepatic stellate cells.

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  • 1Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH.


Connective tissue growth factor (CCN2) drives fibrogenesis in hepatic stellate cells (HSC). Here we show that CCN2 up-regulation in fibrotic or steatotic livers, or in culture-activated or ethanol-treated primary mouse HSC, is associated with a reciprocal down-regulation of microRNA-214 (miR-214). By using protector or reporter assays to investigate the 3'-untranslated region (UTR) of CCN2 mRNA, we found that induction of CCN2 expression in HSC by fibrosis-inducing stimuli was due to reduced expression of miR-214, which otherwise inhibited CCN2 expression by directly binding to the CCN2 3'-UTR. Additionally, miR-214 was present in HSC exosomes, which were bi-membrane vesicles, 50-150 nm in diameter, negatively charged (-26 mV), and positive for CD9. MiR-214 levels in exosomes but not in cell lysates were reduced by pretreatment of the cells with the exosome inhibitor, GW4869. Coculture of either quiescent HSC or miR-214-transfected activated HSC with CCN2 3'-UTR luciferase reporter-transfected recipient HSC resulted in miR-214- and exosome-dependent regulation of a wild-type CCN2 3'-UTR reporter but not of a mutant CCN2 3'-UTR reporter lacking the miR-214 binding site. Exosomes from HSC were a conduit for uptake of miR-214 by primary mouse hepatocytes. Down-regulation of CCN2 expression by miR-214 also occurred in human LX-2 HSC, consistent with a conserved miR-214 binding site in the human CCN2 3'-UTR. MiR-214 in LX-2 cells was shuttled by way of exosomes to recipient LX-2 cells or human HepG2 hepatocytes, resulting in suppression of CCN2 3'-UTR activity or expression of CCN2 downstream targets, including alpha smooth muscle actin or collagen. Experimental fibrosis in mice was associated with reduced circulating miR-214 levels.


Exosomal transfer of miR-214 is a paradigm for the regulation of CCN2-dependent fibrogenesis and identifies fibrotic pathways as targets of intercellular regulation by exosomal miRs.

© 2014 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

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