Objective Angiotensin II (AngII) activates via angiotensin-II-type-I receptor (AT1R) Janus-kinase-2 (JAK2)/Arhgef1 pathway and subsequently RHOA/Rho-kinase (ROCK), which induces experimental and probably human liver fibrosis. This study investigated the relationship of JAK2 to experimental and human portal hypertension.
Design The mRNA and protein levels of JAK2/ARHGEF1 signalling components were analysed in 49 human liver samples and correlated with clinical parameters of portal hypertension in these patients. Correspondingly, liver fibrosis (bile duct ligation (BDL), carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)) was induced in floxed-Jak2 knock-out mice with SM22-promotor (SM22Cre+-Jak2f/f). Transcription and contraction of primary myofibroblasts from healthy and fibrotic mice and rats were analysed. In two different cirrhosis models (BDL, CCl4) in rats, the acute haemodynamic effect of the JAK2 inhibitor AG490 was assessed using microsphere technique and isolated liver perfusion experiments.
Results Hepatic transcription of JAK2/ARHGEF1 pathway components was upregulated in liver cirrhosis dependent on aetiology, severity and complications of human liver cirrhosis (Model for End-stage Liver disease (MELD) score, Child score as well as ascites, high-risk varices, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis). SM22Cre+- Jak2f/f mice lacking Jak2 developed less fibrosis and lower portal pressure (PP) than SM22Cre−-Jak2f/f upon fibrosis induction. Myofibroblasts from SM22Cre+-Jak2f/f mice expressed less collagen and profibrotic markers upon activation. AG490 relaxed activated hepatic stellate cells in vitro. In cirrhotic rats, AG490 decreased hepatic vascular resistance and consequently the PP in vivo and in situ.
Conclusions Hepatic JAK2/ARHGEF1/ROCK expression is associated with portal hypertension and decompensation in human cirrhosis. The deletion of Jak2 in myofibroblasts attenuated experimental fibrosis and acute inhibition of JAK2 decreased PP. Thus, JAK2 inhibitors, already in clinical use for other indications, might be a new approach to treat cirrhosis with portal hypertension.
- PORTAL HYPERTENSION
- LIVER CIRRHOSIS
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SK and JR contributed equally.
Contributors SK, JL, RS, IGS and WL: acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data, drafting of the manuscript. JR, LV, KH, FEU and DW: acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data. SM and K-UW: interpretation of data, administrative support. K-UW and PPS: interpretation of data, providing important animal models. TS: interpretation of data, drafting of the manuscript, obtaining funding, administrative support. JT: study concept and design, acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data, drafting of the manuscript, obtaining funding, administrative support, study supervision.
Funding The study was supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB TRR57P18) and from H. J. & W. Hector Stiftung (M60.2).
Competing interests None declared.
Ethics approval Ethikkommision der Universität Bonn.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.