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J Hepatol. 1999 Jan;30(1):88-94.

Differential expression of monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1) in transforming rat hepatic stellate cells.

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Institute of Immunology, Philipps-University, Marburg, Germany.



Hepatic stellate cells and infiltrating leukocytes play a key role in the pathogenesis of liver fibrosis. The chronic phase of liver inflammation is characterized by immigrating mononuclear cells. To understand the underlying mechanisms responsible for the attraction of mononuclear cells in the pathogenesis of liver fibrosis, we investigated the inducible production of chemotactic activities in hepatic stellate cells.


Cultured hepatic stellate cells of different transformation grades and after in vitro transformation to myofibroblast-like cells were stimulated with tumor necrosis factor-a or bacterial lipopolysaccharide. Mononuclear cell attracting chemotactic activities were evaluated by chemotaxis assays, ELISA, and Northern blot analysis.


We observed a transformation grade-dependent differential responsiveness of hepatic stellate cells and myofibroblast-like cells. Monocyte chemotactic protein-1 was inducible by tumor necrosis factor-alpha in non-transformed hepatic stellate cells. In contrast, monocyte chemotactic protein-1 was not inducible by bacterial lipopolysaccharide until the cells were fully transformed into myofibroblast-like cells. Despite a delayed onset, the bacterial lipopolysaccharide-inducible monocyte chemotactic protein-1 expression did not depend on an endogenous production of tumor necrosis factor-alpha.


Our results indicate that the tumor necrosis factor-alpha and bacterial lipopolysaccharide-inducible production of chemokines plays a central role in the pathogenesis of liver fibrosis. These data suggest that when hepatic stellate cells have been transformed to a myofibroblast-like cells phenotype, e.g. by chronic injury, the cells become more sensitive to bacterial lipopolysaccharide, which may potentiate the production of chemotactic and fibrogenic mediators. A strong secretion of monocyte chemotactic protein-1 may contribute to the maintenance of an inflammatory infiltrate dominated by mononuclear cells.

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