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What is the central question of this study? What is the protective benefit of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) on liver fibrosis and what are the relevant signalling pathways in a transgenic mouse model overexpressing the mfat-1 enzyme? What is the main finding and its importance? n-3 PUFA elevation strongly prevented carbon tetrachloride (CCl4 )-induced hepatic damage and inhibited the activation of hepatic stellate cells. n-3 PUFAs suppressed CCl4 -induced activation of mTOR, elevated Bcl-2 expression, and reduced Bax level, suggesting that n-3 PUFAs can render strong protective effects against liver fibrosis and point to the potential of mfat-1 gene therapy as a treatment modality. Liver fibrosis is a reversible wound healing response with excessive accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins. It is a globally prevalent disease with ultimately severe pathological consequences. However, very few current clinical therapeutic options are available. Nutritional addition of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) can delay and lessen the development of liver fibrosis. Herein, this study examined the protective benefit of n-3 PUFAs on liver fibrosis and the relevant signalling pathways using a transgenic mouse model overexpressing the mfat-1 enzyme that converts n-6 to n-3 PUFAs. Male C57BL/6 wild-type and mfat-1 transgenic mice were administered carbon tetrachloride (CCl4 ) or control corn oil by intraperitoneal injection. Blood alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) levels were subsequently measured. CCl4 -induced hepatic damage and fibrosis were assessed using haematoxylin-eosin and Masson's trichrome staining. Western blot assays were used to detect and quantify fibrosis-related proteins and mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) and B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2)/Bcl-2-associated X protein (Bax) signalling components. The direct effect of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on primary hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) was also investigated in a co-culture experiment. n-3 PUFAs, as a result of mfat-1 activity, had a strong protective effect on liver fibrosis. The elevation of ALT and AST induced by CCl4 was significantly lessened in the mfat-1 mice. Histological determination revealed the protective effects of n-3 PUFAs on liver inflammation and collagen deposition. Co-incubation with DHA reduced the expression of profibrogenic factors in the primary HSCs. Moreover, mfat-1 transgenic mice showed significant reduction of proteins that are involved in mTOR and Bcl-2/Bax signalling pathways. Collectively, these results suggest that n-3 PUFA elevation strongly prevents CCl4 -induced hepatic damage by directly inhibiting the activation of HSCs and regulating the basal activity of the mTOR and Bcl-2/Bax signalling pathways. Gene therapy applying mfat-1 and elevating n-3 PUFAs represents a promising treatment strategy to prevent liver fibrosis. © 2021 The Authors. Experimental Physiology © 2021 The Physiological Society.


Changfeng Shan, Ronghua Wang, Shuai Wang, Zongmeng Zhang, Chaofeng Xing, Wenbin Feng, Zhenggang Zhao, Sujin Zhou, Allan Zijian Zhao, Yunping Mu, Fanghong Li. Endogenous production of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids protects mice from carbon tetrachloride-induced liver fibrosis by regulating mTOR and Bcl-2/Bax signalling pathways. Experimental physiology. 2021 Apr;106(4):983-993

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PMID: 33605486

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