(Pro)renin Receptor Knockdown Attenuates Liver Fibrosis Through Inactivation of ERK/TGF-β1/SMAD3 Pathway

Yun Cheng Hsieh, Kuei Chuan Lee*, Hao Jan Lei, Keng Hsin Lan, Teh Ia Huo, Yi Tsung Lin, Che Chang Chan, Bernd Schnabl, Yi Hsiang Huang, Ming Chih Hou, Han Chieh Lin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Activation of the (pro)renin receptor (PRR) up-regulates the expression of profibrotic genes in the kidney and heart. We aimed to investigate the role of PRR in hepatic fibrogenesis. Methods: Human hepatic PRR levels were measured in patients with or without liver fibrosis. PRR expression was analyzed in primary mouse hepatic stellate cells (HSCs). Experimental fibrosis was studied in thioacetamide (TAA)-treated or methionine choline-deficient (MCD) diet-fed C57BL/6 mice. Lentivirus-mediated PRR short hairpin RNA was used to knockdown hepatic PRR expression. Lentiviral vectors expressing PRR short hairpin RNA or complementary DNA from the α-smooth muscle actin promoter were used for myofibroblast-specific gene knockdown or overexpression. Results: PRR is up-regulated in human and mouse fibrotic livers, and in activated HSCs. Hepatic PRR knockdown reduced liver fibrosis by suppressing the activation of HSCs and expression of profibrotic genes in TAA or MCD diet–injured mice without significant changes in hepatic inflammation. Renin and prorenin increased the expression of PRR and production of TGF-β1 in human activated HSC Lieming Xu-2 cells, and knockdown of PRR inactivated Lieming Xu-2 cells with decreased production of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 and Mothers against decapentaplegic homolog 3 (Smad3) phosphorylation. Myofibroblast-specific PRR knockdown also attenuated liver fibrosis in TAA or MCD diet–injured mice. Mice with both myofibroblast-specific and whole-liver PRR knockdown showed down-regulation of the hepatic extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)/TGF-β1/Smad3 pathway. Myofibroblast-specific PRR overexpression worsened TAA-induced liver fibrosis by up-regulating the ERK/TGF-β1/Smad3 pathway. Conclusions: PRR contributes to liver fibrosis and HSC activation, and its down-regulation attenuates liver fibrosis through inactivation of the ERK/TGF-β1/Smad3 pathway. Therefore, PRR is a promising therapeutic target for liver fibrosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-838
Number of pages26
JournalCellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Chronic Liver Disease
  • Gene Targeting
  • Hepatic Stellate Cell
  • Molecular Mechanisms


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