Liver progenitor cells (LPCs) are activated in chronic liver damage and may contribute to liver fibrosis. Our previous investigation reported that LPCs produced connective tissue growth factor (CTGF/CCN2), an inducer of liver fibrosis, yet the regulatory mechanism of the production of CTGF/CCN2 in LPCs remains elusive. In this study, we report that Activin A is an inducer of CTGF/CCN2 in LPCs. Here we show that expression of both Activin A and CTGF/CCN2 were upregulated in the cirrhotic liver, and the expression of Activin A positively correlates with that of CTGF/CCN2 in liver tissues. We go on to show that Activin A induced de novo synthesis of CTGF/CCN2 in LPC cell lines LE/6 and WB-F344. Furthermore, Activin A contributed to autonomous production of CTGF/CCN2 in liver progenitor cells (LPCs) via activation of the Smad signaling pathway. Smad2, 3 and 4 were all required for this induction. Collectively, these results provide evidence for the fibrotic role of LPCs in the liver and suggest that the Activin A-Smad-CTGF/CCN2 signaling in LPCs may be a therapeutic target of liver fibrosis.
Ding, Z. Y., Jin, G. N., Wang, W., Sun, Y. M., Chen, W. X., Chen, L., … Chen, X. P. (2016). Activin a-smad signaling mediates connective tissue growth factor synthesis in liver progenitor cells. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 17(3). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17030408