Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is currently considered one of the major players in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) pathogenesis and progression. Here, we aim to investigate the possible role of LPS-induced TNF-α factor (LITAF) in inducing a pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrogenic phenotype of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). We found that children with NAFLD displayed, in different liver-resident cells, an increased expression of LITAF which correlated with histological traits of hepatic inflammation and fibrosis. Total and nuclear LITAF expression increased in mouse and human hepatic stellate cells (HSCs). Moreover, LPS induced LITAF-dependent transcription of IL-1ß, IL-6 and TNF-α in the clonal myofibroblastic HSC LX-2 cell line, and this effect was hampered by LITAF silencing. We showed, for the first time in HSCs, that LITAF recruitment to these cytokine promoters is LPS dependent. However, preventing LITAF nuclear translocation by p38MAPK inhibitor, the expression of IL-6 and TNF-α was significantly reduced with the aid of p65NF-κB, while IL-1ß transcription exclusively required LITAF expression/activity. Finally, IL-1ß levels in plasma mirrored those in the liver and correlated with LPS levels and LITAF-positive HSCs in children with NASH. In conclusion, a more severe histological profile in paediatric NAFLD is associated with LITAF over-expression in HSCs, which in turn correlates with hepatic and circulating IL-1ß levels outlining a panel of potential biomarkers of NASH-related liver damage. The in vitro study highlights the role of LITAF as a key regulator of the LPS-induced pro-inflammatory pattern in HSCs and suggests p38MAPK inhibitors as a possible therapeutic approach against hepatic inflammation in NASH.
- Pathology section
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