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Publication Detail
Macrophage MerTK promotes profibrogenic cross-talk with hepatic stellate cells via soluble mediators
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Authors:
    Pastore M, Caligiuri A, Raggi C, Navari N, Piombanti B, Di Maira G, Rovida E, Piccinni MP, Lombardelli L, Logiodice F, Rombouts K, Petta S, Marra F
  • Publisher:
    Elsevier BV
  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
    JHEP Reports
  • Volume:
  • Issue:
  • Article number:
  • Status:
  • Print ISSN:
  • Language:
  • Keywords:
    Gas-6, THP-1, M2c-like macrophages, NASH, liver fibrosis
  • Notes:
    © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL). This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Background & Aims: Activation of Kupffer cells and recruitment of monocytes are key events in fibrogenesis. These cells release soluble mediators which induce the activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), the main fibrogenic cell type within the liver. Mer tyrosine kinase (MerTK) signaling regulates multiple processes in macrophages and has been implicated in the pathogenesis of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis-related fibrosis. In this study, we explored if MerTK activation in macrophages influences the profibrogenic phenotype of HSCs. Methods: Macrophages were derived from THP-1 cells or differentiated from peripheral blood monocytes towards MerTK+/CD206+/CD163+/CD209- macrophages. The role of MerTK was assessed by pharmacologic and genetic inhibition. HSC migration was determined in Boyden chambers, viability was measured by the MTT assay, and proliferation was evaluated by the BrdU incorporation assay. Results: Gas-6 induced MerTK phosphorylation and Akt activation in macrophages, and these effects were inhibited by UNC569. During polarization, MerTK+/CD206+/CD163+/CD209- macrophages exhibited activation of STAT3, ERK1/2, p38 and increased expression of VEGF-A. Activation of MerTK in THP-1 macrophages induced a secretome which promoted a significant increase in migration, proliferation, viability and expression of profibrogenic factors in HSCs. Similarly, conditioned medium from MerTK+ macrophages induced a significant increase in cell migration, proliferation, STAT3 and p38 phosphorylation and upregulation of IL-8 expression in HSCs. Moreover, conditioned medium from Gas-6-stimulated Kupffer cells induced a significant increase in HSC proliferation. These effects were specifically related to MerTK expression and activity in macrophages, as indicated by pharmacologic inhibition and knockdown experiments. Conclusions: MerTK activation in macrophages modifies the secretome to promote profibrogenic features in HSCs, implicating this receptor in the pathogenesis of hepatic fibrosis. Lay summary: Fibrosis represents the process of scarring occurring in patients with chronic liver diseases. This process depends on production of scar tissue components by a specific cell type, named hepatic stellate cells, and is regulated by interaction with other cells. Herein, we show that activation of MerTK, a receptor present in a population of macrophages, causes the production of factors that act on hepatic stellate cells, increasing their ability to produce scar tissue.
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