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World J Gastroenterol. 2005 May 21;11(19):2922-6.

Tetrandrine inhibits activation of rat hepatic stellate cells in vitro via transforming growth factor-beta signaling.

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Digestive Disease Laboratory, Xinhua Hospital, Shanghai Second Medical University, 1665 Kongjiang Road, Shanghai 200092, China.



To investigate the effect of various concentrations of tetrandrine on activation of quiescent rat hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) signaling in vitro.


HSCs were isolated from rats by in situ perfusion of liver and 18% Nycodenz gradient centrifugation, and primarily cultured on uncoated plastic plates for 24 h with DMEM containing 20% fetal bovine serum (FBS/DMEM) before the culture medium was substituted with 2% FBS/DMEM for another 24 h. Then, the HSCs were cultured in 2% FBS/DMEM with tetrandrine (0.25, 0.5, 1, 2 mg/L, respectively). Cell morphological features were observed under an inverted microscope, smooth muscle-alpha-actin (alpha-SMA) was detected by immunocytochemistry and image analysis system, laminin (LN) and type III procollagen (PCIII) in supernatants were determined by radioimmunoassay. TGF-beta1 mRNA, Smad 7 mRNA and Smad 7 protein were analyzed with RT-PCR and Western blotting, respectively.


Tetrandrine at the concentrations of 0.25-2 mg/L prevented morphological transformation of HSC from the quiescent state to the activated one, while alpha-SMA, LN and PCIII expressions were inhibited. As estimated by gray values, the expression of alpha-SMA in tetrandrine groups (0.25, 0.5, 1, 2 mg/L) was reduced from 21.3% to 42.2% (control: 0.67, tetrandrine groups: 0.82, 0.85, 0.96, or 0.96, respectively, which were statistically different from the control, P<0.01), and the difference was more significant in tetrandrine at 1 and 2 mg/L. The content of LN in supernatants was significantly decreased in tetrandrine groups to 58.5%, 69.1%, 65.8% or 60.0% that of the control respectively, and that of PCIII to 84.6%, 81.5%, 75.7% or 80.7% respectively (P<0.05 vs control), with no significant difference among tetrandrine groups. RT-PCR showed that TGF-beta1 mRNA expression was reduced by tetrandrine treatments from 56.56% to 87.90% in comparison with the control, while Smad 7 mRNA was increased 1.4-4.8 times. The TGF-beta1 mRNA and Smad 7 mRNA expression was in a significant negative correlation (r=-0.755, P<0.01), and both were significantly correlated with alpha-SMA protein expression (r=-0.938, P<0.01; r=0.938, P<0.01, respectively). The up-regulation of Smad 7 protein by tetrandrine (1 mg/L) was confirmed by Western blotting as well.


Tetrandrine has a direct inhibiting effect on the activation of rat HSCs in culture. It up-regulates the expression of Smad 7 which in turn blocks TGF-beta1 expression and signaling.

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