Lipid-Induced Hepatocyte-Derived Extracellular Vesicles Regulate Hepatic Stellate Cells via MicroRNA Targeting Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor-γ

Davide Povero, Nadia Panera, Akiko Eguchi, Casey D. Johnson, Bettina G. Papouchado, Lucas de Araujo Horcel, Eva M. Pinatel, Anna Alisi, Valerio Nobili, Ariel E. Feldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background & Aims: Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) play a key role in liver fibrosis in various chronic liver disorders including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The development of liver fibrosis requires a phenotypic switch from quiescent to activated HSCs. The trigger for HSC activation in NAFLD remain poorly understood. We investigated the role and molecular mechanism of extracellular vesicles (EVs) released by hepatocytes during lipotoxicity in modulation of HSC phenotype. Methods: EVs were isolated from fat-laden hepatocytes by differential centrifugation and incubated with HSCs. EV internalization and HSC activation, migration, and proliferation were assessed. Loss- and gain-of-function studies were performed to explore the potential role of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPAR-γ)-targeting microRNAs (miRNAs) carried by EVs into HSC. Results: Hepatocyte-derived EVs released during lipotoxicity are efficiently internalized by HSCs resulting in their activation, as shown by marked up-regulation of profibrogenic genes (collagen-I, α-smooth muscle actin, and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-2), proliferation, chemotaxis, and wound-healing responses. These changes were associated with miRNAs shuttled by EVs and suppression of PPAR-γ expression in HSCs. The hepatocyte-derived EV miRNA content included various miRNAs that are known inhibitors of PPAR-γ expression, with miR-128-3p being the most efficiently transferred. Furthermore, loss- and gain-of-function studies identified miR-128-3p as a central modulator of the effects of EVs on PPAR-γ inhibition and HSC activation. Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate a link between fat-laden hepatocyte-derived EVs and liver fibrosis and have potential implications for the development of novel antifibrotic targets for NAFLD and other fibrotic diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)646-663.e4
JournalCMGH Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2015


  • Extracellular vesicles
  • Hepatic stellate cell
  • Lipotoxicity
  • Liver fibrosis
  • MiRNAs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Hepatology


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