Lipopolysaccharides induce Smad2 phosphorylation through PI3K/Akt and MAPK cascades in HSC-T6 hepatic stellate cells

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Endotoxemia and its pro-fibrogenic signaling play a significant role in the development of hepatic fibrosis. This study investigated whether lipopolysaccharide (LPS) directly activate cultured HSC-T6 hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) through triggering Smad-dependent pro-fibrogenic signaling pathway.

Main methods

Direct cell counting and assays for cell proliferation and migration were used to measure the effects of LPS on HSC behaviors. Quantitative PCR, Western blot, and gelatin zymography were used to quantify the molecular effects of LPS on expression of HSC activation markers and signaling activity.

Key findings

Long-term exposure to LPS exhibited moderately stimulatory effect on HSC cell growth. A wound-healing cell migration assay showed that LPS suppressed HSC-T6 cell migration. qPCR and Western blotting detection indicated that LPS treatment induced upregulation of type I and IV collagens, α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), and matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9). Gelatin zymography confirmed that LPS elevated MMP-9, but not MMP-2 gelatinolytic activity. Moreover, LPS immediately stimulated Akt, EKR1/2, JNK, p38 MAPK, and Smad2 hyperphosphorylation, supporting that LPS directly triggers pro-fibrogenic Smad signaling cascade without TGF-β1 stimulation. Kinase blockade experiments demonstrated the involvement of PI3K/Akt, JNK, p38 MAPK, but not ERK1/2 signaling activation in the LPS-elicited Smad2 phosphorylation as well as the overexpression of type I collagen and α-SMA in HSC-T6 cells.


These findings demonstrate that LPS exerts pro-fibrogenic effect through activation and transformation of HSCs. The tissue-remodeling effect of LPS may be attributable to its ability to activate non-canonical Smad pathway through PI3K/Akt and MAPK signaling cascades.

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