Upregulation of proinflammatory and proangiogenic cytokines by leptin in human hepatic stellate cells


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


Leptin upregulates collagen expression in hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), but the possible modulation of other actions has not been elucidated. The aim of this study was to investigate the expression and function of leptin receptors (ObR) in human HSCs and the biological actions regulated by leptin. Exposure of HSCs to leptin resulted in upregulation of monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP-1) expression. Leptin also increased gene expression of the proangiogenic cytokines vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and angiopoietin-1, and VEGF was also upregulated at the protein level. Activated HSCs express ObRb and possibly other ObR isoforms. Exposure to leptin increased the tyrosine kinase activity of ObR immunoprecipitates and resulted in activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3. Several signaling pathways were activated by leptin in HSCs, including extracellular-signal–regulated kinase, Akt, and nuclear factor κB, the latter being relevant for chemokine expression. Leptin also increased the abundance of hypoxia-inducible factor 1α, which regulates angiogenic gene expression, in an extracellular-signal–regulated kinase– and phoshatidylinositol 3-kinase–dependent fashion. In vivo, leptin administration induced higher MCP-1 expression and more severe inflammation in mice after acute liver injury. Conversely, in leptin-deficient mice, the increase in MCP-1 messenger RNA and mononuclear infiltration was less marked than in wild-type littermates. Finally, ObR expression colocalized with VEGF and α-smooth muscle actin after induction of fibrosis in rats. In conclusion, ObR activation in HSCs leads to increased expression of proinflammatory and proangiogenic cytokines, indicating a complex role for leptin in the regulation of the liver wound-healing response.(HEPATOLOGY 2005;42:1339–1348.)