Apoptosis of human hepatic myofibroblasts promotes activation of matrix metalloproteinase-2



Liver fibrosis is potentially reversible after removal of the injurious agent. Fibrosis resolution is characterized by apoptosis of hepatic myofibroblasts and degradation of extracellular matrix components. Matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) is involved in matrix remodeling. In the liver, it is synthesized by myofibroblasts, secreted as a proenzyme, and activated by membrane type-MMPs (MT-MMP) such as MT1-MMP. The goal of this work was to determine whether apoptosis induction in human hepatic myofibroblasts modulates the gene expression of MMP-2 and/or its activation by MT1-MMP. Induction of apoptosis by cytochalasin D or C2-ceramide did not modulate MMP-2 mRNA expression. In contrast, apoptosis was associated with marked activation of pro-MMP-2, as shown by gelatin zymography, which revealed the presence of the 59-kd active form, whereas untreated cells only expressed the 66-kd proform. SB-203580, a specific inhibitor of p38 MAPK, selectively abrogated both C2-ceramide–induced apoptosis and pro-MMP-2 activation. Apoptosis-induced pro-MMP-2 activation was inhibited by the tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMP)-2 but not by TIMP-1, implying involvement of an MT-MMP–mediated process. Induction of apoptosis by cytochalasin D and C2-ceramide upregulated MT1-MMP protein expression and MT1-MMP mRNA expression. In conclusion, apoptosis of hepatic myofibroblasts induces pro-MMP-2 activation through increased MT1-MMP expression.