Background & Aims
A fenestrated phenotype is characteristic of liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs), but liver sinusoids become defenestrated during fibrosis and other liver diseases. Thrombospondin-1 (TSP1) is a matrix glycoprotein with pro-fibrotic effects, and the CD47-binding fragment of TSP1 also has anti-angiogenic effects in endothelial cells. We hypothesized that the CD47-binding fragment of TSP1 could induce defenestration in LSECs through the Rho-Rho kinase (ROCK)-myosin pathway.
Freshly isolated rat LSECs were treated with TSP1 or CD47-binding peptides of TSP1. LSEC fenestration was assessed with scanning electron microscopy, and myosin phosphorylation was assessed with immuno-fluorescence.
Treating LSECs with TSP1 caused a dose-dependent loss of fenestrae, and this effect could not be blocked by SB-431542, the TGF-β1 receptor inhibitor. A CD47-binding fragment of TSP1, p4N1, was able to induce defenestration, and a CD47-blocking antibody, B6H12, was able to suppress p4N1-induced defenestration. The p4N1 fragment also caused contraction of fenestra size, correlated with an increase in myosin activation. Pretreatment with Y-237642 (a ROCK inhibitor) prevented p4N1-induced myosin activation and fenestrae decrease. Simvastatin has also been shown to antagonize Rho-ROCK signalling, and we found that simvastatin pretreatment protected LSECs from p4N1-induced myosin activation and defenestration.
We conclude that CD47 signals through the Rho-ROCK-myosin pathway to induce defenestration in LSECs. In addition, our results show that simvastatin and Y-237642 have a beneficial impact on fenestration in vitro, providing an additional explanation for the efficacy of these compounds for regression of liver fibrosis.