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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 22;8(7):e70599. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070599. Print 2013.

Vismodegib suppresses TRAIL-mediated liver injury in a mouse model of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.

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Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA.


Hedgehog signaling pathway activation has been implicated in the pathogenesis of NASH. Despite this concept, hedgehog pathway inhibitors have not been explored. Thus, we examined the effect of vismodegib, a hedgehog signaling pathway inhibitor, in a diet-induced model of NASH. C57BL/6 mice were placed on 3-month chow or FFC (high saturated fats, fructose, and cholesterol) diet. One week prior to sacrifice, mice were treated with vismodegib or vehicle. Mice fed the FFC diet developed significant steatosis, which was unchanged by vismodegib therapy. In contrast, vismodegib significantly attenuated FFC-induced liver injury as manifested by reduced serum ALT and hepatic TUNEL-positive cells. In line with the decreased apoptosis, vismodegib prevented FFC-induced strong upregulation of death receptor DR5 and its ligand TRAIL. In addition, FFC-fed mice, but not chow-fed animals, underwent significant liver injury and apoptosis following treatment with a DR5 agonist; however, this injury was prevented by pre-treatment with vismodegib. Consistent with a reduction in liver injury, vismodegib normalized FFC-induced markers of inflammation including mRNA for TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, monocyte chemotactic protein-1 and a variety of macrophage markers. Furthermore, vismodegib in FFC-fed mice abrogated indices of hepatic fibrogenesis. In conclusion, inhibition of hedgehog signaling with vismodegib appears to reduce TRAIL-mediated liver injury in a nutrient excess model of NASH, thereby attenuating hepatic inflammation and fibrosis. We speculate that hedgehog signaling inhibition may be salutary in human NASH.

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