Inhibition of placental growth factor activity reduces the severity of fibrosis, inflammation, and portal hypertension in cirrhotic mice


  • Potential conflict of interest: ThromboGenics NV developed PlGF inhibitors for antiangiogenic treatment under a license from VIB and K. U. Leuven. Jean Marie Stassen is the Senior Director of Research & Development at ThromboGenics NV.


Placental growth factor (PlGF) is associated selectively with pathological angiogenesis, and PlGF blockade does not affect the healthy vasculature. Anti-PlGF is therefore currently being clinically evaluated for the treatment of cancer patients. In cirrhosis, hepatic fibrogenesis is accompanied by extensive angiogenesis. In this paper, we evaluated the pathophysiological role of PlGF and the therapeutic potential of anti-PlGF in liver cirrhosis. PlGF was significantly up-regulated in the CCl4-induced rodent model of liver cirrhosis as well as in cirrhotic patients. Compared with wild-type animals, cirrhotic PlGF−/− mice showed a significant reduction in angiogenesis, arteriogenesis, inflammation, fibrosis, and portal hypertension. Importantly, pharmacological inhibition with anti-PlGF antibodies yielded similar results as genetic loss of PlGF. Notably, PlGF treatment of activated hepatic stellate cells induced sustained extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 phosphorylation, as well as chemotaxis and proliferation, indicating a previously unrecognized profibrogenic role of PlGF. Conclusion: PlGF is a disease-candidate gene in liver cirrhosis, and inhibition of PlGF offers a therapeutic alternative with an attractive safety profile. (HEPATOLOGY 2011;)