Decoding the role of the nuclear receptor SHP in regulating hepatic stellate cells and liver fibrogenesis.

Research paper by Sabrina S Cipriani, Adriana A Carino, Dario D Masullo, Angela A Zampella, Eleonora E Distrutti, Stefano S Fiorucci

Indexed on: 25 Jan '17Published on: 25 Jan '17Published in: Scientific Reports


The small heterodimer partner (SHP) is an orphan nuclear receptor that lacks the DNA binding domain while conserves a putative ligand-binding site, thought that endogenous ligands for this receptor are unknown. Previous studies have determined that SHP activation protects against development of liver fibrosis a process driven by trans-differentiation and activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), a miofibroblast like cell type, involved in extracellular matrix (ECM) deposition. To dissect signals involved in this activity we generated SHP-overexpressing human and rat HSCs. Forced expression of SHP in HSC-T6 altered the expression of 574 genes. By pathway and functional enrichment analyses we detected a cluster of 46 differentially expressed genes involved in HSCs trans-differentiation. Using a isoxazole scaffold we designed and synthesized a series of SHP agonists. The most potent member of this group, ISO-COOH (EC50: 9 μM), attenuated HSCs trans-differentiation and ECM deposition in vitro, while in mice rendered cirrhotic by carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) or α-naphthyl-isothiocyanate (ANIT), protected against development of liver fibrosis as measured by morphometric analysis and expression of α-SMA and α1-collagen mRNAs. In aggregate, present results identify SHP as a counter-regulatory signal for HSCs transactivation and describe a novel class of SHP agonists endowed with anti-fibrotic activity.