Pregnane X receptor activators inhibit human hepatic stellate cell transdifferentiation in vitro

Emma L Haughton, Steven J Tucker, Carylyn J Marek, Elaine Durward, Val Leel, Zainab Bascal, Tanya Monaghan, Matthew Koruth, Elaina Collie-Duguid, Derek A Mann, Julie E Trim, Matthew C Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND & AIMS: The activated pregnane X receptor is antifibrogenic in rodent chronic liver injury in vivo models. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of human pregnane X receptor activators on human hepatic stellate cell transdifferentiation to a profibrogenic phenotype in vitro.

METHODS: Hepatic stellate cells were isolated from resected human liver and cultured under conditions in which they trans-differentiate into profibrogenic myofibroblasts.

RESULTS: The pregnane X receptor was expressed in primary cultures at the level of messenger RNA and protein and was activated by the ligand rifampicin as judged by increases in binding of proteins to the pregnane X receptor ER6 DNA response element and by increases in ER6-dependent reporter gene expression. Short-term treatment of hepatic stellate cells with rifampicin inhibited the expression of selected fibrosis-related genes (transforming growth factor beta1, alpha-smooth muscle actin), proliferation-related genes, and WNT signaling-associated genes. There was also an increase in interleukin-6 secretion and an inhibition in DNA synthesis. Long-term treatment with rifampicin over several weeks reduced the proliferation and transdifferentiation of hepatic stellate cells. Small interfering RNA knockdown of the pregnane X receptor in a hepatic stellate cell line reduced the binding of proteins to the ER6 DNA response element and abrogated pregnane X receptor activator-dependent changes in transforming growth factor beta1 expression, interleukin-6 secretion, and proliferation.

CONCLUSIONS: The pregnane X receptor is transcriptionally functional in human hepatic stellate cells and activators inhibit transdifferentiation and proliferation. The pregnane X receptor may therefore be an effective target for antifibrotic therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-209
Number of pages16
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2006


  • Blotting, Western
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular/drug therapy
  • Cell Differentiation/drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation/drug effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors/therapeutic use
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Hepatocytes/drug effects
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Liver Neoplasms/drug therapy
  • Pregnane X Receptor
  • RNA, Neoplasm/genetics
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear/drug effects
  • Receptors, Steroid/drug effects
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rifampin/pharmacology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


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