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Limited therapeutic efficacy of pioglitazone on progression of hepatic fibrosis in rats
  1. I A Leclercq1,
  2. C Sempoux2,
  3. P Stärkel1,
  4. Y Horsmans1
  1. 1Gastroenterology Unit, Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), Brussels, Belgium
  2. 2Pathology Unit, Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), Brussels, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to:
    Professor I Leclercq
    Laboratoire de Gastroenterologie, Université Catholique de Louvain, GAEN 53/79, Avenue Mounier, 53, B-1200 Brussels, Belgium; isabelle.leclercq{at}


Aim: Peroxisome proliferator activated receptor γ (PPARγ) agonists have been shown to prevent hepatic fibrosis in rodents. We evaluated the therapeutic antifibrotic potential of the PPARγ agonist pioglitazone on established hepatic fibrosis.

Methods: Repeated injections of carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), a choline deficient diet, or bile duct ligation (BDL) were used to induce hepatic fibrosis in rats. Pioglitazone treatment was introduced at various time points. Therapeutic efficacy was assessed by comparison of the severity of hepatic fibrosis in pioglitazone treated versus untreated fibrotic controls.

Results: When introduced after two weeks of CCl4, pioglitazone reduced hepatic fibrosis, OH proline content, hepatic mRNA expression of collagen type I, and profibrotic genes, as well as the number of activated α smooth muscle actin positive hepatic stellate cells, compared with rats receiving CCl4 only, with no significant change in necroinflammation. When pioglitazone treatment was initiated after five weeks of CCl4, no antifibrotic effect was observed. Similarly, pioglitazone was associated with a reduced severity of fibrosis induced by a choline deficient diet when introduced early, while delayed treatment with pioglitazone remained ineffective. In contrast, pioglitazone failed to interrupt progression of fibrosis due to BDL, irrespective of the timing of its administration.

Conclusion: In rats, the therapeutic antifibrotic efficacy of pioglitazone is limited and dependent on the type of injury, duration of disease, and/or the severity of fibrosis at the time of initiation of treatment.

  • PPARγ, peroxisome proliferator activated receptor γ
  • CCl4, carbon tetrachloride
  • BDL, bile duct ligation
  • HSC, hepatic stellate cells
  • PGZ, pioglitazone
  • CDAA, choline deficient L-amino acid
  • α-SMA, α smooth muscle actin
  • GFAP, glial fibrillar acidic protein
  • ALT, alanine aminotransferase
  • RT-PCR, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction
  • SDS, sodium dodecyl sulphate
  • TIMP-1, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase
  • TGF-β1, transforming growth factor β1
  • CTGF, connective tissue growth factor
  • KLF-6, Kruppel-like factor 6
  • MCP-1, monocyte chemoattractant protein
  • MMP-13, matrix metalloproteinase 13
  • PCNA, proliferating cell nuclear antigen
  • iNOS, inducible nitric oxide synthase
  • IL, interleukin
  • peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma
  • hepatic fibrosis
  • hepatic stellate cells
  • pioglitazone

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  • Published online first 16 February 2006

  • Conflict of interest: None declared.

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