No effective treatment has been established for autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), except for liver transplantation in the fatal stage. Little is known about the roles and mechanisms of farnesyltransferase inhibitors (FTIs) in treating AIH. Thus, we investigated the specific role of the FTI, tipifarnib, in a Concanavalin A (Con A)-induced model of hepatitis. The effects of tipifarnib (10 mg/kg, intraperitoneal injection) were studied in Con A (20 mg/kg, intravenous injection)-challenged mice by histological, biochemical, and immunological analyses. Tipifarnib-treated mice were compared to phosphate-buffered saline (PBS)-treated mice. Con A caused liver injury characterized by increased plasma alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels and marked histological changes. The increased serum ALT, interleukin-6, or interferon-γ (IFN-γ) levels were observed at 2 or 8 h; tumor necrosis factor-α levels at 2 h post-Con A administration decreased significantly in the tipifarnib group. Tipifarnib also suppressed Con A-induced activation of CD4+ cells (but not CD8+ T cells) in the liver and spleen, and also reversed the Con A-induced decrease of natural killer T (NKT) cells in the liver. Tipifarnib significantly inhibited IFN-γ production and STAT1 phosphorylation from CD4+ T cells (but not CD8+ T and NKT cells) in the liver at 2 h post-Con A administration. Tipifarnib significantly inhibited IFN-γ production by splenic CD4+ T cells at 48 h post-Con A injection in vitro. Tipifarnib also inhibited the expression of farnesylated proteins induced by Con A administration. In conclusion, tipifarnib inhibited IFN-γ derived from Con A-induced CD4+ T cell activation due to downregulated STAT1 phosphorylation, suggesting that Tipifarnib can protect against AIH.
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