The antidepressant mirtazapine inhibits hepatic innate immune networks to attenuate immune-mediated liver injury in mice

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Activation of the innate immune system, including tissue macrophages and associated neutrophil infiltration, is an important driver of subsequent adaptive immune responses in many autoimmune diseases, including autoimmune hepatitis (AIH). The antidepressant mirtazapine has a unique complex pharmacology, altering signaling through a number of serotonin and histamine receptors that can impact macrophage function; an effect potentially influencing AIH outcome. In the mouse model of concanavalin A (Con A) induced liver injury (mimics many aspects of human AIH), in which early innate immune activation (i.e., stimulated hepatic macrophages/monocytes recruit neutrophils and additional monocytes to the liver) critically drives immune-mediated hepatitis induction, mirtazapine strikingly and dose-dependently inhibited Con A-induced liver injury. This inflammation-suppressing effect of mirtazapine was linked to an attenuation of Con A-stimulated early innate immune responses within the liver, including inhibition of hepatic macrophage/monocyte activation, decreased hepatic macrophage/monocyte-derived pro-inflammatory cytokine (e.g., TNFα) and chemokine (e.g., CXCL1 and CXCL2) production, suppression of Con A-induced increases in the hepatic expression of the neutrophil relevant endothelial cell adhesion molecule ICAM-1, with the resultant significant reduction in neutrophil recruitment into the liver. Consistent with our findings in the Con A model, mirtazapine also significantly reduced activation-induced release of cytokine/chemokine mediators from human CD14+ monocytes in vitro. Conclusion: Our data suggest that mirtazapine can attenuate hepatic innate immune responses that critically regulate the subsequent development of autoimmune liver injury. Therefore, given that it is a safe and widely used medication, mirtazapine may represent a novel therapeutic approach to autoimmune liver disease.




Almishri, W., Shaheen, A. A., Sharkey, K. A., & Swain, M. G. (2019). The antidepressant mirtazapine inhibits hepatic innate immune networks to attenuate immune-mediated liver injury in mice. Frontiers in Immunology, 10(APR).

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