BACKGROUND & AIMS: Platelet-derived growth factor-β (PDGFB) is a mitogen for hepatic stellate cells (HSCs). We studied the cellular sources of PDGFB and the effects of a high-affinity monoclonal antibody against PDGFB (MOR8457) in mouse models of biliary fibrosis.
METHODS: Cellular sources of PDGFB were identified using quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, biochemical, and immunohistologic methods. Mice with advanced biliary fibrosis, MDR2(Abcb4)-null mice, and C57Bl/6 (control) mice were placed on 3,5-diethoxycarbonyl-1,4-dihydrocollidine (DDC)-supplemented diets and were given weekly intraperitoneal injections of MOR8457. Platelets were depleted from MDR2-null mice by injection of an antibody against CD41, or inhibited with diets containing low-dose aspirin. Liver tissues were collected and analyzed by quantitative reverse-transcription PCR and histologic and biochemical analyses.
RESULTS: Levels of PDGFB protein, but not messenger RNA, were increased in fibrotic livers of MDR2-null mice, compared with control mice. Platelet clusters were detected in the hepatic endothelium, in close proximity to HSCs, and were identified as a source of PDGFB protein in MDR2-null mice. Levels of the PDGFB were increased in serum samples from patients with early stages of liver fibrosis of various etiologies (F1-2, n = 16; P <.05), compared with nonfibrotic liver tissue (F0, n = 12). Depletion of platelets from MDR2-null mice normalized hepatic levels of PDGFB within 48 hours, reducing levels of a marker of HSC activation (α-smooth muscle actin) and expression of genes that promote fibrosis. Diets supplemented with low-dose aspirin reduced circulating serum and hepatic levels of PDGFB and significantly reduced progression of fibrosis in MDR2-null mice over 1 year. MOR8457 produced a dose-dependent decrease in liver fibrosis in MDR2-null mice, reducing collagen deposition by 45% and expression of fibrosis-associated genes by 50%, compared with mice given a control antibody. In vitro, platelets activated freshly isolated HSCs (induction of α-smooth muscle actin and fibrosis-associated genes) via a PDGFB-dependent mechanism. MOR8457 also reduced liver fibrosis in mice placed on DDC-supplemented diets.
CONCLUSIONS: Platelets produce PDGFB to activate HSC and promote fibrosis in MDR2-null mice and mice on DDC-supplemented diets. Antiplatelet therapy or selective inhibition of PDGFB might reduce biliary fibrosis in patients with liver disease.
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