Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) are key players in liver fibrosis and regeneration via collagen degradation and synthesis. These phenomena involve inflammatory cytokines released from non-parenchymal liver cells such as Kupffer cells. Although the effects of individual cytokines on many cell types have been investigated in various conditions, such as inflammation and tissue fibrosis, investigating the effect of combined cytokines would further our understanding of the regulatory mechanisms in tissue fibrosis. Here, we report the effect of multiple cytokine combinations on primary HSCs. We first examined the effect of individual cytokines and then the simultaneous exposure of different cytokines, including interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-1 alpha (IL-1α), platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β), on matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP1) gene expression in primary HSCs. We observed that the combination of all five cytokines induced higher levels of MMP1 gene expression. Of these cytokines, TNF-α and IL-1α were found to be the key cytokines for not only inducing MMP1 expression, but also increasing α-smooth muscle actin gene expression. In conclusion, the combined treatment of TNF-α and IL-1α on HSCs had an enhanced effect on the expression of the fibrotic genes, MMP1 and α-smooth muscle actin, so appears to be an important regulator for tissue regeneration. This finding suggests that stimulation with combined anti-fibrotic cytokines is a potential approach in the development of a novel therapy for the recovery of liver fibrosis.
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