Decursin attenuates hepatic fibrogenesis through interrupting TGF-beta-mediated NAD(P)H oxidase activation and Smad signaling in vivo and in vitro

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We studied that a potent antifibrotic effect of decursin on in vivo liver damage model and the mechanism in inhibiting which transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1-induced human hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) activation.

Main methods:

Liver injury was induced in vivo by intraperitoneal injection of carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) with or without decursin for 4 weeks in mice. Human hepatic stellate cell line, an immortalized human HSC line, was used in in vitro assay system. The effects of decursin on HSC activation were measured by analyzing the expression of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) and collagen I in liver tissue and human HSCs.

Key findings:

Decursin treatment significantly reduced the ratio of liver/body weight, α-SMA activation, and type I collagen overexpression in CCl4 treated mice liver. The elevated serum levels, including ALT, AST, and ALP, were also decreased by decursin treatment. Treatment of decursin markedly proved the generation of reactive oxygen species, NAD(P)H oxidase (NOX) protein (1, 2, and 4) upregulation, NOX activity, and superoxide anion production in HSCs by TGF-β1. It also significantly reduced TGF-β1-induced Smad 2/3 phosphorylation, nuclear translocation of Smad 4, and association of Smad 2/3–Smad 4 complex. Consistent with in vitro results, decursin treatment effectively blocked the levels of NOX protein, and Smad 2/3 phosphorylation in injured mice liver.


Decursin blocked CCl4-induced liver fibrosis and inhibited TGF-β1-mediated HSC activation in vitro. These data demonstrated that decursin exhibited hepatoprotective effects on experimental fibrosis, potentially by inhibiting the TGF-β1 induced NOX activation and Smad signaling.

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