Tetrandrine regulates hepatic stellate cell activation via TAK1 and NF-κB signaling

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We investigated the anti-fibrotic mechanism of tetrandrine, a bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloid from the Chinese herb, Stephania tetrandra, on the immortalized HSC-T6 rat hepatic stellate cell line. Tetrandrine (0.39–50 μM) dose- and time-dependently inhibited HSC-T6 cell viability within 24 h and exhibited almost no cytotoxicity at concentrations lower than 6.25 μM in the presence of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). At a much high concentration (50 μM), tetrandrine caused fatal cytotoxity in both HSCs and hepatocytes. TNF-α time-dependently increased α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expression, while a lower concentration of tetrandrine (6.25 μM) prior to TNF-α treatment reduced the expression of α-SMA and TNFR-1-associated death domain (TRADD). TNF-α treatment induced TGF-β-activated kinase-1 (TAK1) and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) phosphorylation, which were attenuated by tetrandrine. Furthermore, TNF-α treatment activated nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) nuclear translocation and IκB-α degradation. Tetrandrine treatment prior to TNF-α reduced nuclear phosphorylated and total NF-κB p65, while the cytosolic IκB-α and NF-κB p65 levels significantly increased. In addition, treatment with only tetrandrine induced the cleavage of caspase-3 and PARP within a range of higher concentrations. Tetrandrine-induced apoptosis was confirmed by the TUNEL assay and flow-cytometric analysis. Treatment with only tetrandrine markedly reduced α-SMA expression, except for at lower concentrations of tetrandrine. A higher concentration of tetrandrine (25 μM) induced a significant increase in JNK and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) phosphorylation, NF-κB nuclear translocation and IκB-α degradation. In conclusion, the anti-fibrogenic effects of tetrandrine on HSCs involved a dosage-dependent signaling pathway, based on the tetrandrine concentration, by regulating TAK1, JNK and NF-κB. The present data provides strong evidence for the anti-fibrotic dosage-dependent signaling pathway of tetrandrine.

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