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      Cytokines and STATs in Liver Fibrosis

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          Liver fibrosis, or cirrhosis, is a common end-stage condition of many chronic liver diseases after incomplete recovery from hepatocyte damage. During fibrosis progression, hepatocellular damage and inflammation trigger complex cellular events that result in collagen deposition and the disruption of the normal liver architecture. Hepatic stellate cell activation and transdifferentiation into myofibroblasts are key events in liver fibrogenesis. Research findings from cell culture and animal models have revealed that the Janus kinase-signal transducer and activator of transcription (Jak-STAT) signaling pathway, which can be activated by many cytokines, growth factors, and hormones, plays a critical role in hepatic fibrogenesis. This review summarizes the biological significance of diverse cytokines and their downstream signaling protein STATs in hepatic fibrogenesis.

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          Liver fibrosis.

          Liver fibrosis is the excessive accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins including collagen that occurs in most types of chronic liver diseases. Advanced liver fibrosis results in cirrhosis, liver failure, and portal hypertension and often requires liver transplantation. Our knowledge of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of liver fibrosis has greatly advanced. Activated hepatic stellate cells, portal fibroblasts, and myofibroblasts of bone marrow origin have been identified as major collagen-producing cells in the injured liver. These cells are activated by fibrogenic cytokines such as TGF-beta1, angiotensin II, and leptin. Reversibility of advanced liver fibrosis in patients has been recently documented, which has stimulated researchers to develop antifibrotic drugs. Emerging antifibrotic therapies are aimed at inhibiting the accumulation of fibrogenic cells and/or preventing the deposition of extracellular matrix proteins. Although many therapeutic interventions are effective in experimental models of liver fibrosis, their efficacy and safety in humans is unknown. This review summarizes recent progress in the study of the pathogenesis and diagnosis of liver fibrosis and discusses current antifibrotic strategies.
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            Interleukin-22 but not interleukin-17 provides protection to hepatocytes during acute liver inflammation.

            The cytokine interleukin-22 (IL-22) is primarily expressed by T helper 17 (Th17) CD4(+) T cells and is highly upregulated during chronic inflammatory diseases. IL-22 receptor expression is absent on immune cells, but is instead restricted to the tissues, providing signaling directionality from the immune system to the tissues. However, the role of IL-22 in inflammatory responses has been confounded by data suggesting both pro- and anti-inflammatory functions. Herein, we provide evidence that during inflammation, IL-22 played a protective role in preventing tissue injury. Hepatocytes from mice deficient in IL-22 were highly sensitive to the detrimental immune response associated with hepatitis. Additionally, IL-22-expressing Th17 cells provided protection during hepatitis in IL-22-deficient mice. On the other hand, interleukin-17 (IL-17), which is coexpressed with IL-22 and can induce similar cellular responses, had no observable role in liver inflammation. Our data suggest that IL-22 serves as a protective molecule to counteract the destructive nature of the immune response to limit tissue damage.
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              Interleukin 22 (IL-22) plays a protective role in T cell-mediated murine hepatitis: IL-22 is a survival factor for hepatocytes via STAT3 activation.

              The central role of T cell activation in hepatocellular injury has been well documented. In this article, we provide evidence suggesting that T cells may also play a protective role in liver disease by releasing interleukin-22 (IL-22), a recently identified T cell-derived cytokine whose biological significance is unclear. IL-22 messenger RNA and protein expression are significantly elevated in T cell-mediated hepatitis induced by concanavalin A (ConA) but are less extensively elevated in the carbon tetrachloride-induced liver injury model. Activated CD3(+) T cells are likely responsible for the production of IL-22 in the liver after injection of ConA. The IL-22 receptor is normally expressed at high levels by hepatocytes and further induced after ConA injection. IL-22 blockade with a neutralizing antibody reduces signal transducer and activator of transcription factor 3 (STAT3) activation and worsens liver injury in T cell-mediated hepatitis, whereas injection of recombinant IL-22 attenuates such injury. In vitro treatment with recombinant IL-22 or overexpression of IL-22 promotes cell growth and survival in human hepatocellular carcinoma HepG2 cells. Stable overexpression of IL-22 in HepG2 cells constitutively activates STAT3 and induces expression of a variety of antiapoptotic (e.g., Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, Mcl-1) and mitogenic (e.g., c-myc, cyclin D1, Rb2, CDK4) proteins. Blocking STAT3 activation abolishes the antiapoptotic and mitogenic actions of IL-22 in hepatic cells. In conclusion, the T cell-derived cytokine IL-22 is a survival factor for hepatocytes; this suggests that T cell activation may also prevent and repair liver injury by releasing hepatoprotective cytokine IL-22 in addition to its previously documented central role in hepatocellular injury.

                Author and article information

                Front Physiol
                Front Physiol
                Front. Physio.
                Frontiers in Physiology
                Frontiers Research Foundation
                18 January 2012
                03 April 2012
                : 3
                1simpleLaboratory of Liver Diseases, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health Bethesda, MD, USA
                2simpleDepartment of Medicine and Molecular Science, Gunma University Graduate School of Medicine Gunma, Japan
                Author notes

                Edited by: Honglei Weng, University of Heidelberg, Germany

                Reviewed by: Honglei Weng, University of Heidelberg, Germany; Robert Eferl, Medical University Vienna, Austria

                *Correspondence: Bin Gao, Laboratory of Liver Diseases, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, 5625 Fishers Lane, Room 2S-33, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA. e-mail: bgao@

                This article was submitted to Frontiers in Gastrointestinal Sciences, a specialty of Frontiers in Physiology.

                Copyright © 2012 Kong, Horiguchi, Mori and Gao.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 1, Equations: 0, References: 86, Pages: 7, Words: 7191
                Review Article

                Anatomy & Physiology

                stellate cells, stats, interferon, interleukin


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