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Lab Invest. 2011 Apr;91(4):609-18. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2011.2. Epub 2011 Feb 14.

Blockade of IL-6 signaling exacerbates liver injury and suppresses antiapoptotic gene expression in methionine choline-deficient diet-fed db/db mice.

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Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Graduate School of Medical Science, Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, Kyoto, Japan.


Our previous study revealed that blockade of interleukin-6 (IL-6)-STAT3 signaling ameliorated liver injury, although hepatic STAT3(-/-) or GP130(-/-) mice have been reported to develop severe liver injury, in a murine methionine choline deficient (MCD) diet-induced model of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). In this study, to determine whether profound blockade of IL-6-STAT3 signaling may still ameliorate liver injury, we studied db/db mice, which have impaired leptin-mediated STAT3 activation, using the MCD diet-induced NASH model. Male lean and db/db mice (6 weeks old) were fed either control chow or an MCD diet for 8 or 12 weeks. Half of the mice were treated with 15 mg/kg rat anti-mouse IL-6 receptor neutralizing antibody (MR16-1) intraperitoneally twice weekly, the remainder were injected with 15 mg/kg rat IgG as a control. Hepatic steatosis, injury, fibrosis, markers of lipid peroxidation/oxidant stress and antiapoptotic gene expression were evaluated. Plasma IL-6 levels were elevated in all groups of db/db mice. Although hepatic IL-6/ GP130 signaling was activated in chow-fed db/db mice, this was suppressed in MCD diet-fed db/db mice, accompanied by downregulation of hepatic IL-6 receptor and GP130 mRNA expression. MR16-1 treatment of MCD diet-fed db/db mice further repressed STAT3 activities and expression of STAT3-related antiapoptotic genes, such as Bcl-2 and Ref-1, but increased plasma-free fatty acid and hepatic markers of lipid peroxidation/oxidant stress, leading to increased liver injury, hepatocyte apoptosis and liver fibrosis. Although 'moderate' blockade of enhanced IL-6-STAT3 signaling may be beneficial in NASH, as we reported previously, these findings demonstrate that a profound defect in STAT3 activation is detrimental in terms of liver injury, hepatocyte apoptosis and liver fibrosis, indicating the hepato-protective role of IL-6 signaling in this severe NASH model.

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