Foxf1 +/− mice exhibit defective stellate cell activation and abnormal liver regeneration following CCl4 injury



Previous studies have shown that haploinsufficiency of the splanchnic and septum transversum mesoderm Forkhead Box (Fox) f1 transcriptional factor caused defects in lung and gallbladder development and that Foxf1 heterozygous (+/−) mice exhibited defective lung repair in response to injury. In this study, we show that Foxf1 is expressed in hepatic stellate cells in developing and adult liver, suggesting that a subset of stellate cells originates from septum transversum mesenchyme during mouse embryonic development. Because liver regeneration requires a transient differentiation of stellate cells into myofibroblasts, which secrete type I collagen into the extracellular matrix, we examined Foxf1 +/− liver repair following carbon tetrachloride injury, a known model for stellate cell activation. We found that regenerating Foxf1 +/− liver exhibited defective stellate cell activation following CCl4 liver injury, which was associated with diminished induction of type I collagen, α–smooth muscle actin, and Notch-2 protein and resulted in severe hepatic apoptosis despite normal cellular proliferation rates. Furthermore, regenerating Foxf1 +/− livers exhibited decreased levels of interferon-inducible protein 10 (IP-10), delayed induction of monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP-1) levels, and aberrantly elevated expression of transforming growth factor β1. In conclusion, Foxf1 +/− mice exhibited abnormal liver repair, diminished activation of hepatic stellate cells, and increased pericentral hepatic apoptosis following CCl4 injury.