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Activated hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) are significant in liver fibrosis. Our past investigations have shown that human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells (hucMSCs) and their secreted exosomes (MSC-ex) could alleviate liver fibrosis via restraining HSCs activation. However, the mechanisms underlying the efficacy were not clear. Ferroptosis is a regulatory cell death caused by excessive lipid peroxidation, and it plays a vital role in the occurrence and development of liver fibrosis. In the present study, we aimed to study the proferroptosis effect and mechanism of MSC-ex in HSCs. MSC-ex were collected and purified from human umbilical cord MSCs. Proferroptosis effect of MSC-ex was examined in HSCs line LX-2 and CCl4 induced liver fibrosis in mice. Gene knockdown or overexpression approaches were used to investigate the biofactors in MSC-ex-mediated ferroptosis regulation. Results: MSC-ex could trigger HSCs ferroptosis by promoting ferroptosis-like cell death, ROS formation, mitochondrial dysfunction, Fe2+ release, and lipid peroxidation in human HSCs line LX-2. Glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4) is a crucial regulator of ferroptosis. We found that intravenous injection of MSC-ex significantly decreased glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4) expression in activated HSCs and collagen deposition in experimental mouse fibrotic livers. Mechanistically, MSC-ex derived BECN1 promoted HSCs ferroptosis by suppressing xCT-driven GPX4 expression. In addition, ferritinophagy and necroptosis might also play a role in MSC-ex-promoted LX-2 cell death. Knockdown of BECN1 in MSC diminished proferroptosis and anti-fibrosis effects of MSC-ex in LX-2 and fibrotic livers. MSC-ex may promote xCT/GPX4 mediated HSCs ferroptosis through the delivery of BECN1 and highlights BECN1 as a potential biofactor for alleviating liver fibrosis. © 2022. The Author(s).


Youwen Tan, Yan Huang, Rong Mei, Fei Mao, Dakai Yang, Jinwen Liu, Wenrong Xu, Hui Qian, Yongmin Yan. HucMSC-derived exosomes delivered BECN1 induces ferroptosis of hepatic stellate cells via regulating the xCT/GPX4 axis. Cell death & disease. 2022 Apr 08;13(4):319

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PMID: 35395830

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