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J Hepatol. 2011 Aug;55(2):399-406. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2010.11.025. Epub 2010 Dec 13.

Ethanol-stimulated differentiated functions of human or mouse hepatic stellate cells are mediated by connective tissue growth factor.

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  • 1Center for Clinical and Translational Research, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH 43205, United States.



Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) expression is intimately associated with hepatic fibrotic pathophysiology. In this study, CTGF production and action was investigated in ethanol-treated mouse primary hepatic stellate cells (HSC) or human LX-2 cells.


CTGF, transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-β1), alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) or collagen α1(I) mRNA were quantified by real-time PCR after treatment of HSC with ethanol or acetaldehyde. CTGF protein production was assessed by immunoprecipitation or ELISA. Ethanol-stimulated CTGF transcription was investigated using CTGF promoter reporter constructs. The TGF-β1- or CTGF-dependency of ethanol-induced CTGF, α-SMA, or collagen α1(I) was determined using small interfering RNA (siRNA) to TGF-β1 or CTGF.


In human steatohepatitis, CTGF was produced by presumptive activated HSC. In cultured human or mouse HSC, production of CTGF, α-SMA and/or collagen was increased by ethanol treatment, an effect mimicked by acetaldehyde and blocked by 4-methylpyrazole (4-MP) or N-acetylcysteine (NAC). CTGF promoter activity was stimulated in a sustained fashion by ethanol or TGF-β1. Mutation of the Smad site or basal control element (BCE-1) in the CTGF promoter caused a 5-fold reduction in ethanol-stimulated CTGF promoter activity. Administration of TGF-β1 siRNA or CTGF siRNA significantly decreased ethanol- or acetaldehyde-stimulated mRNA or protein levels of CTGF, α-SMA or collagen I in LX-2 cells. In mouse HSC, TGF-β1- or ethanol-stimulated CTGF, α-SMA or collagen I were significantly attenuated by CTGF siRNA.


Ethanol-induced α-SMA or collagen α1(I) in HSC are mediated via TGF-β-dependent CTGF production, highlighting potential therapeutic benefits of targeting CTGF in alcoholic liver disease.

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