Published online Jul 28, 2020. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v26.i28.4094
Peer-review started: January 30, 2020
First decision: April 22, 2020
Revised: May 21, 2020
Accepted: June 25, 2020
Article in press: June 25, 2020
Published online: July 28, 2020
Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is an important mechanism in the progression of chronic and acute liver diseases, especially in the progression and recovery of liver fibrosis. Excessive and long-term ER stress induces apoptosis. ER stress-induced apoptosis is considered to be an important pathway in the development of liver fibrosis. Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) induction is also closely related to ER stress. In our previous studies, we showed that celecoxib, a COX-2 inhibitor, improves liver fibrosis and portal hypertension. However, the role and mechanism of celecoxib in alleviating liver fibrosis remain unclear.
To investigate whether celecoxib alleviates liver fibrosis by inhibiting hepatocyte apoptosis via the ER stress response.
Cirrhosis was induced by intraperitoneal injections of thioacetamide (TAA) for 16 wk (injection dose is 200 mg/kg per 3 d for the first 8 wk and 100 mg /kg per 3 d after 8 wk). Thirty-six male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into three groups, namely, control group, TAA group, and TAA + celecoxib group. In the last 8 wk, TAA-induced cirrhotic rats received celecoxib (20 mg/kg/day) or the vehicle by gastric gavage. After 16 wk, the rats were sacrificed, and serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), and albumin (ALB) were detected. The hepatic fibrosis areas were evaluated by Sirius red staining and the degree of fibrosis was assessed by measuring the level of hydroxyproline. ER stress levels were evaluated by detecting the marker proteins glucose-regulated protein 78 (GRP78), CCAAT/enhancer binding protein homologous protein (CHOP), PKR-like ER protein kinase (PERK), activating transcription factor 6 (ATF6), and inositol-requiring enzyme 1 alpha (IRE1α). Apoptosis levels were evaluated by detecting caspase-12 and caspase-3.
The serum ALT and AST levels in the liver were significantly reduced by celecoxib; however, the serum ALB had no significant changes. Celecoxib significantly reduced the degree of liver fibrosis and the levels of hydroxyproline (-38% and -25.7%, respectively, P < 0.01). Celecoxib ameliorated ER stress by reducing the level of GRP78 compared to the TAA group (P < 0.05). Consistently, after celecoxib administration, the upregulation of TAA-induced hepatic apoptosis markers (caspase-12 and caspase-3) and CHOP were significantly inhibited. In addition, after celecoxib treatment, the expression of key molecules associated with ER stress (PERK, ATF6, and IRE1) was decreased (P < 0.05).
Therapeutic administration of celecoxib effectively reduces hepatic apoptosis in TAA-induced cirrhotic rats. The mechanism of action may be attributed to the suppression of CHOP expression, which subsequently inhibits ER stress.
Core tip: This study aimed to explore the important role of celecoxib in modulating hepatocyte apoptosis during the development of liver fibrosis, and to clarify that the mechanism of its regulation is mediated by endoplasmic reticulum stress, which in turn affects the progression of liver fibrosis. We concluded that therapeutic administration of celecoxib can effectively reduce hepatic apoptosis in thioacetamide-induced cirrhotic rats. The mechanism of action may be attributed to the suppression of CCAAT/enhancer binding protein homologous protein expression, which subsequently inhibits endoplasmic reticulum stress.