Cardiotrophin-1 is an essential factor in the natural defense of the liver against apoptosis


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


We previously reported that exogenous cardiotrophin-1 (CT-1), a member of the IL-6 family of cytokines, exerts hepatoprotective effects. Because CT-1 is expressed in the normal liver, we hypothesized that this cytokine may constitute an endogenous defense of the liver against proapoptotic stimuli. Here, we found that CT-1−/− mice died faster than wild-type animals after challenge with a lethal dose of the Fas agonist Jo-2. At sublethal doses of Jo-2, all wild-type mice survived whereas CT-1−/− animals developed extensive hepatocyte apoptosis with 50% mortality at 24 hours. Pretreatment with CT-1 improved survival and reduced injury in both CT-1−/− and wild-type animals. Upon Fas ligation the activation of STAT-3, a molecule that defends the liver against apoptosis, was lower in CT-1−/− mice than in wild-type animals despite similar IL-6 up-regulation in the 2 groups. Analysis of liver transcriptome in CT-1−/− and wild-type mice showed that 9 genes reported to be associated with cell survival/death functions were differentially expressed in the 2 groups. Four of these genes [IGFBP1, peroxiredoxin3, TNFR1, and calpastatin (endogenous inhibitor of calpain)] could be validated by real-time PCR. All of them were down-regulated in CT-1−/− mice and were modulated by CT-1 administration. Treatment of CT-1−/− animals with the calpain inhibitor MDL28170 afforded significant protection against Fas-induced liver injury. Conclusion: CT-1−/− mice are highly sensitive to Fas-mediated apoptosis due in part to deficient STAT-3 activation and inadequate control of calpain activity during the apoptotic process. Our data show that CT-1 is a natural defense of the liver against apoptosis. This cytokine may have therapeutic potential. (HEPATOLOGY 2007;45:639–648.)