Von Willebrand factor deficiency reduces liver fibrosis in mice
Liver diseases are associated with complex changes in the hemostatic system and elevated levels of the platelet-adhesive protein Von Willebrand factor (VWF) are reported in patients with acute and chronic liver damage. Although elevated levels of VWF are associated with fibrosis in the general population, the role of VWF in acute and chronic liver injury has not been examined in depth in experimental settings. We tested the hypothesis that VWF deficiency inhibits experimental liver injury and fibrosis. Wild-type (WT) and VWF-deficient mice were challenged with carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) and the impact of VWF deficiency on acute liver injury and chronic liver fibrosis was determined. VWF deficiency did not significantly affect acute CCl4-induced hepatocellular necrosis in mice. Chronic CCl4 challenge, twice weekly for 6 weeks, significantly increased hepatic stellate cell activation and collagen deposition in livers of WT mice. Interestingly, hepatic induction of several profibrogenic and stellate cell activation genes was attenuated in VWF-deficient mice. Moreover, birefringent sirius red staining (indicating type I and III collagens) and type I collagen immunofluorescence indicated a reduction in hepatic collagen deposition in CCl4-exposed VWF-deficient mice compared to CCl4-exposed WT mice. The results indicate that VWF deficiency attenuates chronic CCl4-induced liver fibrosis without affecting acute hepatocellular necrosis. The results are the first to demonstrate that VWF deficiency reduces the progression of liver fibrosis, suggesting a mechanistic role of elevated plasma VWF levels in cirrhosis.