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Sci Signal. 2013 Oct 8;6(296):ra88. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.2004512.

Lipid-induced toxicity stimulates hepatocytes to release angiogenic microparticles that require Vanin-1 for uptake by endothelial cells.

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1Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


Angiogenesis is a key pathological feature of experimental and human steatohepatitis, a common chronic liver disease that is associated with obesity. We demonstrated that hepatocytes generated a type of membrane-bound vesicle, microparticles, in response to conditions that mimicked the lipid accumulation that occurs in the liver in some forms of steatohepatitis and that these microparticles promoted angiogenesis. When applied to an endothelial cell line, medium conditioned by murine hepatocytes or a human hepatocyte cell line exposed to saturated free fatty acids induced migration and tube formation, two processes required for angiogenesis. Medium from hepatocytes in which caspase 3 was inhibited or medium in which the microparticles were removed by ultracentrifugation lacked proangiogenic activity. Isolated hepatocyte-derived microparticles induced migration and tube formation of an endothelial cell line in vitro and angiogenesis in mice, processes that depended on internalization of microparticles. Microparticle internalization required the interaction of the ectoenzyme Vanin-1 (VNN1), an abundant surface protein on the microparticles, with lipid raft domains of endothelial cells. Large quantities of hepatocyte-derived microparticles were detected in the blood of mice with diet-induced steatohepatitis, and microparticle quantity correlated with disease severity. Genetic ablation of caspase 3 or RNA interference directed against VNN1 protected mice from steatohepatitis-induced pathological angiogenesis in the liver and resulted in a loss of the proangiogenic effects of microparticles. Our data identify hepatocyte-derived microparticles as critical signals that contribute to angiogenesis and liver damage in steatohepatitis and suggest a therapeutic target for this condition.

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