Rev-erb agonist and TGF-β similarly affect autophagy but differentially regulate hepatic stellate cell fibrogenic phenotype

Paul G. Thomes, Elizabeth Brandon-Warner, Ting Li, Terrence M. Donohue, Laura W. Schrum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


We demonstrated that ligand-activated nuclear receptor Rev-erbα mitigates CCl4-induced liver fibrosis. Rev-erbα is also a novel regulator of autophagy, a crucial eukaryotic catabolic system in which lysosomes degrade substrates for energy generation. In hepatic stellate cells (HSC) autophagy is reportedly required for this purpose to activate HSCs during fibrogenesis. Here, we examined whether pharmacological activation of Rev-erb with its synthetic ligand SR9009 or treatment with the pro-fibrotic cytokine, TGF-β, each differentially modulate autophagy to regulate the HSC phenotype. We measured the effects of SR9009 on autophagy markers in a CCl4-induced liver fibrosis model. Using primary and immortalized HSCs in vitro, we quantified SR9009 and TGF-β effects on autophagy flux. Compared with vehicle-treated controls, livers from CCl4-treated mice exhibited lower AMPK, higher P70S6K phosphorylation, elevated P62 and lower levels of ATG proteins, indicating a disruption of autophagosome (AV) formation. SR9009 treatment prevented CCl4-induced P70S6K phosphorylation but did not affect CCl4-induced changes in AMPK, ATG proteins or P62. Analysis of autophagy markers and autophagy flux in primary HSCs or an immortalized human HSC line (LX2), revealed that SR9009 exposure down-regulated AV biogenesis. These events were associated with lower levels of fibrogenic gene expression, P70S6K phosphorylation and HSC proliferation. However, HSC exposure to TGF-β enhanced fibrogenic gene expression, P70S6K phosphorylation and HSC proliferation, while it simultaneously decelerated AV synthesis. The autophagy activator rapamycin and the autophagy inhibitor wortmannin each decreased HSC activation, P70S6K phosphorylation and HSC proliferation. Furthermore, knock-down of P70S6K using siRNA blocked basal and TGF-β-induced cell proliferation in human activated LX2. We conclude that SR9009 and TGF-β both similarly affected autophagy but, differentially regulated HSC fibrogenic phenotype through modulation of P70S6K, which is crucial for cell proliferation and fibrogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-147
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Autophagosome
  • Fibrosis
  • Lysosome
  • P70S6K
  • Rev-erb

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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