Both MAPK and STAT3 signal transduction pathways are necessary for IL-6-dependent hepatic stellate cells activation

Polina Kagan, Maya Sultan, Irina Tachlytski, Michal Safran, Ziv Ben-Ari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: During liver injury, hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) can undergo activation and transform into alpha-smooth muscle actin (aSMA)-expressing contractile myofibroblast-like cells, leading to deposition of excessive scar matrix. We have recently demonstrated that depletion of adenosine deaminase acting on double-stranded RNA (ADAR1) from mouse hepatocytes leads to HSC activation and induction of inflammation and hepatic fibrosis that is mediated by interleukin 6 (IL-6). Our aim was to identify and characterize the molecular pathways involved in the direct, inflammation-independent activation of HSCs by IL-6. Methods: Primary HSCs were isolated from mouse livers. mRNA levels of αSMA and Col1a were analyzed using qRT-PCR. Protein levels of αSMA, MAPK, p-MAPK, p38, p-p38, STAT3 and p-STAT3 were assessed by Western Blot analysis. The effect of specific signal transduction pathway inhibitors (i.e., SB203580 (P-38 inhibitor), U0126 (MAPK inhibitor), S3I-201 (STAT3 inhibitor) and Ruxolitinib (Jak1/2 inhibitor)) was also studied. Results: Primary HSCs treated with IL-6 demonstrated upregulation of αSMA and Col1a mRNA levels as well as increased αSMA protein levels. Moreover, the phenotypic transition of quiescent HSCs toward myofibroblast-like cells was noted upon administration of IL-6 and not in untreated samples. In addition, the phosphorylation levels of p38, MAPK and STAT3 increased 30 minutes after treatment, and was followed by a decline in the phosphorylation levels 2-4 hours post-treatment. However, addition of specific signal transduction pathway inhibitors curbed this effect, and resulted in αSMA and Col1a expression levels similar to those measured in untreated control samples. Conclusion: IL-6 can directly induce the transition of HSCs toward myofibroblast-like cells. The effect is mediated by the activation of both MAPK and JAK/STAT signaling pathways. Elimination of either MAPK or JAK/STAT signaling pathways inhibits HSC stimulation. These results might pave the road toward the development of potential therapeutic interventions for hepatic fibrosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0176173
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017


FundersFunder number
Israel Cancer Association


    Dive into the research topics of 'Both MAPK and STAT3 signal transduction pathways are necessary for IL-6-dependent hepatic stellate cells activation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this