Calcium channel blockers ameliorate iron overload-associated hepatic fibrosis by altering iron transport and stellate cell apoptosis

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Liver fibrosis is the principal cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with iron overload. Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) can antagonize divalent cation entry into renal and myocardial cells and inhibit fibrogenic gene expression. We investigated the potential of CCBs to resolve iron overload-associated hepatic fibrosis. Kunming mice were assigned to nine groups (n = 8 per group): control, iron overload, deferoxamine, high and low dose verapamil, high and low dose nimodipine, and high and low dose diltiazem. Iron deposition and hepatic fibrosis were measured in mouse livers. Expression levels of molecules associated with transmembrane iron transport were determined by molecular biology approaches. In vitro HSC-T6 cells were randomized into nine groups (the same groups as the mice). Changes in proliferation, apoptosis, and metalloproteinase expression in cells were detected to assess the anti-fibrotic effects of CCBs during iron overload conditions. We found that CCBs reduced hepatic iron content, intracellular iron deposition, the number of hepatic fibrotic areas, collagen expression levels, and hydroxyproline content. CCBs rescued abnormal expression of α1C protein in L-type voltage-dependent calcium channel (LVDCC) and down-regulated divalent metal transporter-1 (DMT-1) expression in mouse livers. In iron-overloaded HSC-T6 cells, CCBs reduced iron deposition, inhibited proliferation, induced apoptosis, and elevated expression of matrix metalloproteinase-13 (MMP-13) and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1). CCBs are potential therapeutic agents that can be used to address hepatic fibrosis during iron overload. They resolve hepatic fibrosis probably correlated with regulating transmembrane iron transport and inhibiting HSC growth.Graphical abstractHighlightsCalcium channel blockers (CCBs) reduced hepatic iron content.CCBs decreased hepatic fibrotic areas and collagen expression levels.CCBs resolve fibrosis by regulating iron transport and inhibiting HSC growth.

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