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J Hepatol. 2011 Dec;55(6):1353-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2011.07.010. Epub 2011 Jul 29.

A role for autophagy during hepatic stellate cell activation.

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Department of Cell Biology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Laarbeeklaan 103, Brussels 1090, Belgium.



Autophagy is a metabolic process that degrades and recycles intracellular organelles and proteins with many connections to human disease and physiology. We studied the role of autophagy during hepatic stellate cell (HSC) activation, a key event in liver fibrogenesis.


Analysis of the autophagic flux during in vitro activation of primary mouse HSCs was performed using a DsRed-GFP-LC3B encoding plasmid. The effect of autophagy inhibition by bafilomycin A1 on the in vitro activation process of human and mouse HSCs was examined by measuring proliferation, presence of activation markers by RT-qPCR, immunofluorescence, and Western blotting. Analysis of lipid droplet and microtubule-associated protein light chain 3 beta (LC3B) colocalization in the presence of PDGF-BB was investigated by immunocytochemistry.


A significant increased autophagic flux was observed during culture induced mouse HSC activation. Treatment of mouse HSCs and human HSCs with autophagy inhibitor bafilomycin A1 results in a significant decreased proliferation and expression of activation markers. In addition, lipid droplets and LC3B colocalization was increased after PDGF-BB treatment in quiescent HSCs.


During HSC activation, autophagic flux is increased. The demonstration of partly inhibition of in vitro HSC activation after treatment with an autophagy inhibitor unveils a potential new therapeutic strategy for liver fibrosis.

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