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Lab Invest. 2001 Dec;81(12):1709-16.

Hepatic stellate cell proliferation is an early platelet-derived growth factor-mediated cellular event in rat cholestatic liver injury.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale U402, Hôpital Saint-Antoine, Institut Jacques Monod (M-CG), Paris, France.


After liver injury, hepatic stellate cells (HSC) undergo a pleiotropic response termed "activation" that also occurs in culture models and ultimately leads to the conversion of HSC into myofibroblasts expressing smooth muscle alpha-actin (alpha-SMA). The onset of HSC proliferation in primary culture coincides with the induction of platelet-derived growth factor receptor-beta (PDGFR-beta) expression, while platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) is the most potent mitogen for culture-activated HSC. Yet, the mechanisms and the stage of activation required for HSC proliferation in the intact liver are still uncertain. In the present study, we analyzed the proliferative response of HSC to rat cholestatic liver injury and the role of PDGF in this response. After in vivo incorporation of bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), pure vitamin A-containing HSC were isolated at different time points after bile duct ligation (BDL) or sham operation and were analyzed by means of flow cytometry. The induction of HSC proliferation, as ascertained by BrdU incorporation, occurred between 24 and 48 hours and reached a plateau as soon as 48 hours after BDL. Flow cytometry and immunoblot analyses of HSC indicated that the induction of proliferation in HSC coincided with the up-regulation of PDGFR-beta protein on their surface but preceded that of alpha-SMA. A dose-dependent inhibition of PDGF-BB-induced HSC proliferation by STI571, a PDGF receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor, was documented in vitro. Daily intraperitoneal injections of STI571 (20 mg/kg) caused a 60% reduction in BrdU positive isolated HSC and in the amount of desmin-immunoreactive sinusoidal cells on liver tissue sections in 48-hour bile duct-ligated rats. These results indicate that cholestatic liver injury elicits an early proliferative response in HSC that is mainly mediated by PDGF, and which precedes HSC phenotypic conversion into myofibroblasts.

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