Interleukin-22 induces hepatic stellate cell senescence and restricts liver fibrosis in mice


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


Interleukin (IL)-22 is known to play a key role in promoting antimicrobial immunity, inflammation, and tissue repair at barrier surfaces by binding to the receptors, IL-10R2 and IL-22R1. IL-22R1 is generally thought to be expressed exclusively in epithelial cells. In this study, we identified high levels of IL-10R2 and IL-22R1 expression on hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), the predominant cell type involved in liver fibrogenesis in response to liver damage. In vitro treatment with IL-22 induced the activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 3 in primary mouse and human HSCs. IL-22 administration prevented HSC apoptosis in vitro and in vivo, but surprisingly, the overexpression of IL-22 by either gene targeting (e.g., IL-22 transgenic mice) or exogenous administration of adenovirus expressing IL-22 reduced liver fibrosis and accelerated the resolution of liver fibrosis during recovery. Furthermore, IL-22 overexpression or treatment increased the number of senescence-associated beta-galactosidase-positive HSCs and decreased alpha-smooth muscle actin expression in fibrotic livers in vivo and cultured HSCs in vitro. Deletion of STAT3 prevented IL-22-induced HSC senescence in vitro, whereas the overexpression of a constitutively activated form of STAT3 promoted HSC senescence through p53- and p21-dependent pathways. Finally, IL-22 treatment up-regulated the suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS) 3 expression in HSCs. Immunoprecipitation analyses revealed that SOCS3 bound p53 and subsequently increased the expression of p53 and its target genes, contributing to IL-22-mediated HSC senescence. Conclusion: IL-22 induces the senescence of HSCs, which express both IL-10R2 and IL-22R1, thereby ameliorating liver fibrogenesis. The antifibrotic effect of IL-22 is likely mediated by the induction of HSC senescence, in addition to the previously discovered hepatoprotective functions of IL-22. (HEPATOLOGY 2012;56:1150–1159)