Background: Significantly elevated serum and hepatic bile acid (BA) concentrations have been known to occur in patients with liver fibrosis. However, the roles of different BA species in liver fibrogenesis are not fully understood. Methods: We quantitatively measured blood BA concentrations in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) patients with liver fibrosis and healthy controls. We characterized BA composition in three mouse models induced by carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), streptozotocin-high fat diet (STZ-HFD), and long term HFD, respectively. The molecular mechanisms underlying the fibrosis-promoting effects of BAs were investigated in cell line models, a 3D co-culture system, and a Tgr5 (HSC-specific) KO mouse model. Findings: We found that a group of conjugated 12α-hydroxylated (12α-OH) BAs, such as taurodeoxycholate (TDCA) and glycodeoxycholate (GDCA), significantly increased in NASH patients and liver fibrosis mouse models. 12α-OH BAs significantly increased HSC proliferation and protein expression of fibrosis-related markers. Administration of TDCA and GDCA directly activated HSCs and promoted liver fibrogenesis in mouse models. Blockade of BA binding to TGR5 or inhibition of ERK1/2 and p38 MAPK signaling both significantly attenuated the BA-induced fibrogenesis. Liver fibrosis was attenuated in mice with Tgr5 depletion. Interpretation: Increased hepatic concentrations of conjugated 12α-OH BAs significantly contributed to liver fibrosis via TGR5 mediated p38MAPK and ERK1/2 signaling. Strategies to antagonize TGR5 or inhibit ERK1/2 and p38 MAPK signaling may effectively prevent or reverse liver fibrosis. Fundings: This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute Grant 1U01CA188387-01A1, the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2017YFC0906800); the State Key Program of National Natural Science Foundation (81430062); the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81974073, 81774196), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation funded project, China (2016T90381), and E-institutes of Shanghai Municipal Education Commission, China (E03008).
Scopus Subject Areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- 12α-hydroxylated bile acids
- G protein-coupled bile acid receptor
- Hepatic stellate cell
- Liver fibrosis