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Endocrinology. 2010 Nov;151(11):5306-14. doi: 10.1210/en.2010-0754. Epub 2010 Sep 15.

Apelin mediates the induction of profibrogenic genes in human hepatic stellate cells.

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  • 1Service of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, Liver Unit, Hospital Clinic, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.


Apelin is a peptide with relevant functions in angiogenesis and inflammation. Recent studies have demonstrated that apelin is overexpressed in hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) of cirrhotic rats. Moreover, patients with cirrhosis show high circulating levels of this peptide. We evaluated the role of endogenous apelin system in fibrogenesis-related gene induction in human HSCs. Messenger expression and immunolocalization of apelin were analyzed in human cirrhotic liver and in control samples. Apelin expression was analyzed in a human HSC line (LX-2) under hypoxic conditions or in the presence of proinflammatory or profibrogenic stimuli. LX-2 cells were stimulated with apelin, and a selected profile of fibrogenesis-related genes was quantified. In vivo inactivation of apelin was analyzed in the liver of fibrotic rats after administrating specific blockers of the molecules triggering apelin induction. Apelin was overexpressed in HSCs from human cirrhotic liver. Neither hypoxia nor proinflammatory substances induced the expression of apelin in LX-2. By contrast, both profibrogenic molecules angiotensin II (AII) and endothelin-1 (ET-1) enhanced apelin expression in these cells. Apelin increased the synthesis of collagen-I and platelet-derived growth factor receptor β (PDGFRβ) in LX-2. AII and ET-1 stimulated collagen-I and PDGFRβ expression, and this induction was drastically reduced when apelin receptor was blocked in these cells. In accordance, AII or ET-1 receptor antagonists reduced the hepatic synthesis of apelin, collagen-I, and PDGFRβ in fibrotic rats.


apelin mediates some of the fibrogenic effects triggered by AII and ET-1, thus suggesting that apelin could be an important mediator of fibrogenesis in human liver disease.

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