Dihydroartemisinin counteracts fibrotic portal hypertension via farnesoid X receptor-dependent inhibition of hepatic stellate cell contraction

A. Endutkin, A. Popov, A. Yudkina, K. Makasheva, D. Afonnikov, C. Simmerling, D. Zharkov

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Portal hypertension is a frequent pathological symptom occurring especially in hepatic fibrosis and cirrhosis. Current paradigms indicate that inhibition of hepatic stellate cell (HSC) activation and contraction is anticipated to be an attractive therapeutic strategy, because activated HSC dominantly facilitates an increase in intrahepatic vein pressure through secreting extracellular matrix and contracting. Our previous in vitro study indicated that dihydroartemisinin (DHA) inhibited contractility of cultured HSC by activating intracellular farnesoid X receptor (FXR). However, the effect of DHA on fibrosis-related portal hypertension still requires clarification. In this study, gain- and loss-of-function models of FXR in HSC were established to investigate the mechanisms underlying DHA protection against chronic CCl 4-caused hepatic fibrosis and portal hypertension. Immunofluorescence staining visually showed a decrease in FXR expression in CCl 4-administrated rat HSC but an increase in that in DHA-treated rat HSC. Serum diagnostics and morphological analyses consistently indicated that DHA exhibited hepatoprotective effects on CCl 4-induced liver injury. DHA also reduced CCl 4-caused inflammatory mediator expression and inflammatory cell infiltration. These improvements were further enhanced by INT-747 but weakened by Z-guggulsterone. Noteworthily, DHA, analogous to INT-747, significantly lowered portal vein pressure and suppressed fibrogenesis. Experiments on mice using FXR shRNA lentivirus consolidated the results above. Mechanistically, inhibition of HSC activation and contraction was found as a cellular basis for DHA to relieve portal hypertension. These findings demonstrated that DHA attenuated portal hypertension in fibrotic rodents possibly by targeting HSC contraction via a FXR activation-dependent mechanism. FXR could be a target molecule for reducing portal hypertension during hepatic fibrosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-133
Number of pages20
JournalFEBS Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Event42nd Congress of the Federation-of-European-Biochemical-Societies (FEBS) on From Molecules to Cells and Back - Jerusalem, Israel
Duration: 10 Sep 201714 Sep 2017


  • contraction
  • dihydroartemisinin
  • farnesoid X receptor
  • hepatic stellate cell
  • portal hypertension
  • Portal Vein/drug effects
  • Carbon Tetrachloride
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Cell Death/drug effects
  • Gene Expression
  • Liver/blood supply
  • Rats
  • Hepatocytes/drug effects
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Chenodeoxycholic Acid/analogs & derivatives
  • Protective Agents/pharmacology
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear/agonists
  • Liver Cirrhosis/chemically induced
  • Hypertension, Portal/chemically induced
  • Animals
  • Hepatic Stellate Cells/drug effects
  • Mice
  • Pregnenediones/pharmacology
  • Artemisinins/pharmacology


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